Susquehanna University (SU) contracted Entech to provide utility master planning services in 2012, specifically to address concerns related to their existing campus heating system. Entech recommended to de-centralize the campus heating system and switch fuel sources from coal and oil to natural gas; which is projected to reduce their heating costs by 59% (or $14.7M) over the next 25 years. SU subsequently decided to act on the heating recommendation, commissioning Entech for full design of the heating system and underground natural gas distribution system. Actual heating savings from SU’s first year were 60% or $422,000.
SU’s primary utility concerns related to increasing system efficiency and lowering costs and environmental impacts, while complying with upcoming emissions regulations and maintaining consistent heating service as their aging centralized coal plant neared the end of its useful life.
After assessing the current coal fired central boiler and the campus’ steam usage, it was determined that 46% of steam output was lost, primarily due to the thermal losses associated with the buried steam distribution system. Four options for system replacement were offered to SU.
Options included both centralized and de-centralized heating and a variety of fuel options, including coal/oil, natural gas, and biomass. Primary option cost considerations were; (1) fuel costs, availability, and volatility; (2) construction and operating costs and efficiency; (3) environmental impacts, both on campus and globally; and (4) system longevity.
After careful consideration, the de-centralized condensing natural gas heating system option was selected.
When compared to a direct replacement, the selected option showed a projected savings for SU of $14.7M+ over the next 25 years, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 79%, and eliminating the pipe distribution losses.
Entech was then selected to provide full construction design and specification drawings for the system.
After construction was finished, SU realized a $422,000 (or 60%) annual heating cost reduction in their first year with the new distributed heating system (2014-15). Fuel costs and usage were adjusted for inflation and heating degree days from the baseline period of 2008-11. SU’s actual cost savings were within 1% of our heating master plan estimates.