Steam optimization solutions address natural gas demand issues
The demand for natural gas has increased dramatically in recent years – outpacing available supply in certain regions of the country. In many instances, utilities in these areas have been forced to implement natural gas moratoriums, where new or expanded service is unavailable. While these moratoriums can address supply issues in the short term, they also generate adverse impacts on economic development and customer satisfaction. For many companies and organizations, natural gas is a required element for certain business processes and its unavailability can put relocation or expansion plans on hold. To address gas supply issues in the short and long terms, utilities should instead focus their efforts on gas reduction capital projects with large facilities.
Many large commercial and industrial facilities have aging steam plants – especially manufacturing operations, hospitals, and colleges and universities. These outdated systems can wreak havoc on energy usage and process efficiency – causing leaky distribution systems, high maintenance costs, and low thermal efficiencies. By focusing on steam plants and equipment, utility energy efficiency portfolios can support steam optimization upgrades that deliver energy savings for customers and equivalent demand savings for utility operations. Additionally, utility programs assist customers through dedicated project identification and support, the provision of engineering expertise, and financial incentives to kick-start the project.
Once steam optimization upgrades are identified, many commercial and industrial facilities face a project funding hurdle. Utility incentives can help offset a portion of the project costs, but major improvements like steam optimization often require a sizable upfront capital investment. Facilities looking to minimize upfront costs can opt for a financing option such as a cash-flow-positive energy savings performance contract (ESPC). Using an ESPC, customers can fund a variety of capital projects using the guaranteed energy savings and complete the system upgrades with a zero net total investment. By supporting both the project identification and financial aspects, utilities are able to provide turnkey energy reduction services to their customers and effectively address challenges like natural gas supply constraints.
For more than 30 years, Leidos has specialized in working with large commercial and industrial customers to implement capital energy reduction projects, including steam optimization. Our experienced team provides turnkey services on behalf of utility energy efficiency programs – from project consultation and identification to coordinating implementation and financing vehicles. Recently, Leidos successfully completed a $7.5 million project for Oklahoma City University including a major steam optimization upgrade. As a result, the university is saving an estimated $630,000 per year through these energy-efficient upgrades.
For utilities, there are several solutions on the horizon that can address natural gas supply issues and moratoriums including beneficial electrification and renewable energy sources. However, energy efficiency improvements like steam optimization represent the most cost-effective first step in overcoming this challenge and enhancing the impacts of subsequent energy solutions.