Central Plant Master Plan Implementation

Central Plant Master Plan Implementation

Location: Texas Medical Center, Houston

Client: Thermal Energy Corp.

Completion Date: 2014

Burns & McDonnell provided architectural, engineering, procurement and construction services to Thermal Energy Corp. (TECO) for the initial phase of a master plan implementation at its district energy plant at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

When the entire master plan is completed, the expansion of the central plant will provide 100 MW of on-site power generation, 80,000 tons of chilled water, 152,000 ton-hours of chilled water storage and 540,000 pounds-per-hour of steam to 75 percent of the 47 institutions’ facilities at the Texas Medical Center. This on-site combined heat and power (CHP) system will double operating efficiency to 80 percent, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the security, reliability and emergency operation capacity of the utility infrastructure serving the world's largest medical center.

Thermal Energy Storage

The project includes 8.8 million gallon thermal energy storage (TES) tank with 76,000 ton-hours of storage capacity, enough time to defer running electrical centrifugal chillers during pricier peak demand periods. In August 2011, the TES tank saved TECO more than $500,000 in energy costs while providing increased redundancy and reliability. As the tallest TES tank worldwide, it received the ASHRAE Technology Award and was honored by the Steel Tank Institute as its Steel Tank of the Year.

48-MW CHP Plant

Located on site at the Texas Medial Center, this highly efficient, natural gas-fired CHP system can generate 48 MW of power and 330,000 pounds of steam per hour. It can operate as a base load system to serve 100 percent of the plant's peak electrical load and TECO's customers' peak process and space heating loads. Exceeding 80 percent efficiency, this CHP system saves an estimated 0.75 trillion Btus annually over separate electrical and steam generation and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300,000 tons per year. It also enables TECO to provide uninterrupted energy services in a grid outage.

Startup and Commissioning

Burns & McDonnell managed the construction for phase one of this project. Startup and commissioning was particularly challenging, as the life-saving critical care and research that takes place at the medical center requires no outages. Burns & McDonnell extensively planned and coordinated phasing and timing of testing with TECO. With reliability being a top priority, the firm provided extensive, thorough training to plant operators.

The initial phase of the master plan includes:

  • 45-MW gas turbine with space for a second identical unit
  • 6-MW back-pressure steam turbine
  • 8.8-million-gallon, 76,000-ton-hours chilled-water thermal storage tank
  • New East Chiller Plant with four, 8,000-ton electric-drive chillers and space for six future 8,000-ton chillers
  • New 29,000-square-foot Operations Support Facility
  • 30,000-ton wooden cooling tower replacement
  • 138-kV substation expansion and upgrade
  • Additional chilled-water loops to serve new loads on the west and south

The estimated construction cost of the initial phase is $365 million, and components of the plan will become operational in phases. Completion of all projects in this initial phase is scheduled for 2014.

  • On-site CHP system will save TECO nearly $200 million over next 15 years 
  • Operating efficiency will double from 40 percent to 80 percent
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption will be significantly reduced
    • Carbon emissions reduced by 83,000 metric tons, equivalent of removing 52,000 cars from the road
  • Expansion of central plant will improve the security, reliability and emergency operation capacity of the utility infrastructure serving the Texas Medical Center