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The heat plant on Dover Air Force Base, Del., was decommissioned Sept. 28, 2012, after having been operated continuously since 1954. The plant was replaced by a natural gas heating system that will provide hot water and heat for the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)
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Decentralization, demolition of heat plant

Posted 6/18/2013   Updated 6/19/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Ashlin Federick
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Built in 1954, the heat plant on Dover Air Force Base is in the last stages of demolition.

About 15 to 20 years ago, the base started building facilities hooked up to their own heat and were constructed separate from the central heat plant.

For years the central heat plant was the only source of heat for the facilities on base. High temperature hot water is a very efficient way of heating facilities, but as the base's infrastructure expanded, the plant's maintenance grew more difficult.

In 2009, base personnel assessed the base's expanding infrastructure and evaluated the heat plant's detrimental issues. Being an old facility, the high temperature hot water lines started leaking and it needed a lot of repairs. It would cost millions of dollars to bring the heat plant up to efficient operating standards.

The $25 million effort to decentralize the heat plant was funded in summer of 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

By the end of spring 2012, 67 facilities had been removed from the central heat plant and connected to energy efficient natural gas heating units. More than three miles of gas lines were added to the base gas distribution system.

Jo Anne Deramo, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron project engineer, said Bobbie Grimes, former central heat plant supervisor, did a phenomenal job in keeping the heat plant running efficiently during the process of taking the facilities off of it.

"They had to tweak it a lot to keep things running while we were messing around with all the other stuff," said Deramo.

Grimes said they were way down to 10 percent of operations during the time the new facilities were being taken off the heat plant.

"At times to save things the guys shut off the boilers and then when the temperature came down a little bit we would turn them back on," said Grimes.

The plant was shut down completely in April 2012.

Grimes said the plant used to have seven people working around the clock. Three of the workers retired and the other workers were transitioned over into the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning section which maintains the heating and air conditioning equipment for the base.

"They have been trained and are going to different sections and being retrained in certain areas," said Grimes. "They still know the pumps, piping and burners and are maintaining them fine."

Part of the reason the base decided to do this project was to reduce energy consumption as directed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The base stopped burning fuel oil and is now only burning natural gas, which is cleaner.

The smaller boilers are more efficient and based on the energy consumption baseline, the heat plant project is estimated to reduce energy consumption by 15.3 percent. The estimated cost savings is $2 million in just the operations and maintenance of the heat plant versus decentralized heat.

"The project will pay for itself in about 12 years but the life span of the boilers are significantly longer than that," said Deramo.

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