2013 - 2nd Quarter

S&T’s Geothermal System Project

By Beth Asbury, University Engineer

Drafting Table

In 2010, S&T embarked on an adventure with one of the most comprehensive initiatives of its kind in higher education.   It started with a study to replace the current steam system infrastructure.

S&T’s Power Plant was constructed in 1945 and provides steam generated heat using three boilers to various facilities throughout campus.  The newest boiler, installed in 1981, is a vintage coal and woodchip fueled boiler.  The two remaining boilers are older coal fired units that are inefficient, have limited pollution controls, and have exceeded their life expectancy.  The cost to update the plant to continue to provide reliable heating to 65% of the campus was approximately $50 million.  S&T also had infrastructure issues with their aging, chilled water distribution system.

Through this study, it was determined that an environmental friendly geothermal system was a viable option to be the primary heating source on campus.  The geothermal system will be a ground source heat pump system, which means we will send heat to the earth during the summer and then extract it during the winter to heat the buildings.  For long term stable operation, a geothermal system requires a balanced cooling and heating load.  Since the campus is cooling dominant, the geothermal system was designed to meet the heating load and existing chillers will provide the remaining cooling capacity required to meet the campus cooling load.

The project will construct three regional plants, install approximately 630 wells and miles of piping.  The project will also modify the building heating and cooling systems in all the buildings to be served by the new geothermal system.  Each plant will contain equipment to serve adjacent buildings with heating and cooling.   The aging chilled water distribution piping is also being significantly improved.

The impact on campus during construction is significant.  (See map at:  http://geothermal.mst.edu/impactedareas/ )   Well fields have been placed under parking lots, causing disruptions in parking.  Approximately 7000 lineal feet of trenches for new piping will be routed through campus.  The trenches will be approximately the width and depth of a dump truck.  As buildings are modified to work with the new systems, disruptions in heating and cooling will be experienced by the building occupants.

However, this has also given S&T many opportunities. Parking lots have been redesigned to be more efficient, landscaping will be updated and replaced in areas where new piping is installed, and approximately $16 million in deferred maintenance will be taken care of in the building work modifications. By using this geothermal system, it is projected that the campus energy consumption will be reduced by 50%, carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 25,000 tons per year and water usage will be reduced by 8 million gallons per year.   The project cost for the new geothermal system is approximately $32 Million, significantly less than the boiler replacement project.

For more info watch the video at:  http://geothermal.mst.edu/geothermaloverviewvideo/.

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