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Outstanding Sustainability Program/Project

outstanding project
Rob Crowell, Amy Albaugh, Mark Goins, Peter Wiegand, Dave Bozich, Darryl Bowling, Bryce Hudey, Mike West, Melissa Lapsa

Outstanding Sustainability Program/Project recognizes exceptional planning and execution of a sustainability project that directly helped contribute to the goals outlined in the SRIP. Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate reduced costs, increased efficiencies, organizational resilience, and serve as a best practice for other sites or agencies.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is both the largest science and energy laboratory in the DOE complex and one of the oldest national laboratories still operating at its original site. These characteristics provide a unique and challenging opportunity to integrate sustainable operations into legacy assets while advancing modern, efficient facilities that support the growth of important national missions. ORNL is tasked with the management of an extraordinary set of distinctive scientific facilities and research equipment for DOE. While these facilities must fulfill the mission, one undertaking of the Sustainable ORNL program is to promote operational efficiencies while supporting the needs of world-class research.  

To promote water use efficiency, ORNL has implemented an aggressive plan to reduce water consumption that includes best practices such as repairing leakages, replacing old lines in the water distribution system, and eliminating once-through-cooling (OTC) where possible. The nominated project is a key to significantly exceeding the current DOE SRIP goal of an annual year-over-year reduction in WUI of 0.5%.  ORNL achieved a WUI value of 110.6 G/GSF in FY19, a reduction of 9.4% from FY18 exceeding the 0.5% annual reduction goal.

This award is specific to water reductions resulting from Buildings 4508 and 6000 OTC project. After promising outcomes from 4508, OTC reduction at Building 6000 was pursued to achieve even better sustainable performance. The ORNL research legacy includes various systems that use water as a cooling agent to manage the temperature of research equipment utilizing the OTC process. The older research systems are inefficient and use domestic water that is delivered at utility level temperatures.  The water is circulated to cool the equipment and then discharged to environment (i.e. native streams) after one use. Sodium Bisulfite is used to dechlorinate.

To improve sustainable research operations, the ORNL Facilities Management Division (FMD) personnel were tasked to provide connections of research fixtures to a modern chilled-water closed-loop system previously installed by ORNL’s Laboratory Modernization Division for Office of Science research in Building 4508 (IGPP) project. A major FY18 and FY19 sustainability project, funded by ORNL, FMD managed each individual mechanical connection for dozens of research systems/fixtures to the chilled-water loop. The connections involved installation of large and small bore copper piping, valves, temperature and pressure indicators.

FY19 was the first year that resulted in water savings for the project. The 2-year project was finished with final connections in FY19, with a few critical pieces of equipment that were installed or converted to the chilled-water loop. The 4508 OTC elimination project consisted of the connection of 68 research fixtures that were connected to the cooling loop and 33 by-passes that were installed to prevent “dead-legs” in the system. An additional chiller was installed to support research activity and reduce OTC. Both of these systems in 4508 combine to produce savings of 90 gallons/minute.

Due to ongoing FMD sustainability efforts to install high-quality water meters in ORNL buildings, the EESP engineers were able to validate savings that proved better than original estimates. The almost immediate verification of success from the 4508 redesign, led to investigation of the feasibility for OTC elimination in 6000. After discussing with affected research divisions, a consensus was reached to install equipment to eliminate the need for once through cooling water in 6000. Management was enlisted to provide budget approval and the next phase of the project was implemented to take advantage of lessons-learned. The quick decisions to combine support from research divisions enabled EESP to move the project forward much more efficiently that independent efforts would have allowed.  Environmental compliance can help in the future by keeping EESP informed when/if researchers request approvals for water use variances. (See Project Benefits Section of this nomination).  

The Water Use Reduction project has already produced a significant impact on ORNL utility usage and is expected to hold onto these significant savings in the future. The reduction of OTC in Building 4508 resulted in in water use savings of 34.1 million gallons (MG) in 2018 (partial year) and 47.2 MG in 2019, a 67% reduction is water use for the building. The estimated annual savings for both projects is 56.6 MG per year starting in FY20, a reduction of 71% for the combined facilities. Best practices in water management such as the elimination of OTC systems contribute to sustainable operations at ORNL by increasing reliability, reducing dependency on utility organizations that are external to ORNL, and managing the risk of negative environmental impacts.