Courtesy Thermal Energy Corp.
In 2002 hot taps were made to serve The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Basic
Science Research building. Hot taps were made to both sets of TECO chilled-water lines in the area
to serve this building from more than one source, providing extra reliability. TECO performs one to
two hot taps each year.
implement their emergency load-shed procedures. (The test is conducted just once a
year to simulate how the company can
respond to a peak chilled-water demand.)
The results are closely monitored using
real-time data collected for each customer.
Operational issues such as equipment
alignment and personnel training are also
an important part of maintaining reliability.
The learning curve for new operator
trainees is extensive. Before they are classified as fully qualified operators, they go
through a training program that takes five
to seven years to complete. TECO designed
its operator qualification program along the
lines of programs used in the U.S. Navy to
track and document operator training.
Operational decisions are driven by the
need to provide reliable service. TECO has
installed real-time monitoring at all customer
locations, and the process data at each location are used to make operational decisions.
The monitoring includes not only billing data,
such as chilled-water ton-hours and steam
usage, but also conductivity meters for condensate, product supply pressures and temperatures for both the steam and chilled-water service. The meters and transmitters
are maintained through a preventive maintenance program that involves schedule calibration and testing using qualified in-house
instrumentation technicians. Critical control
data in the plants as well as at customer
locations are flagged with alarm limits that
alert TECO when normal conditions begin
A plan is in place for
customers to shed more
than 30,000 tons of
chilled-water load if
TECO was to lose some
or all of its chilled-water
The data are then analyzed and shared with
customers. When needed, additional procedures are developed to make certain TECO
can serve the emergency load requirements.
Reliability of the equipment itself is
very important. TECO has implemented and
installed several maintenance initiatives to
maintain the reliability and availability of its
equipment. These include an extensive
vibration and oil analysis program, a comprehensive impressed-current cathodic protection system for distribution piping, water
treatment that exceeds the industrial standards for corrosion control, a fully equipped
water lab to monitor the water treatment
programs and in-house expertise for all critical
systems in the plant.
Figure 1. Energy Cost Change, Thermal Energy Corp., 1980-2007.
TECO Cost per MMBtu
Cost of Reliability
Achieving 100 percent reliability is not
always easy. It requires a firm commitment
from owners, customers and employees.
Unquestionably it comes with a cost. For
TECO, the cost of ensuring no loss of service is justified when compared to the costs
that would be incurred if service was lost.
Throughout the development and implementation of its reliability plans, TECO has
managed to keep rate increases to a minimum, holding them to a total of 62 percent
since 1980 (fig. 1). This was accomplished
during a period when natural gas prices
increased 100 percent, the electricity cost
rose 81 percent, the water cost increased
365 percent and the Consumer Price Index
for Houston jumped more than 119 percent.
Adopting a philosophy that loss of service is not an option – and implementing the
necessary safeguards, maintenance and
operational procedures to put this philosophy
into practice – have allowed TECO to distinguish itself with an excellent reliability record.
As Peter Dawson, AIA, vice president of
facilities services for Texas Children’s Hospital
attests, “The extent of critical care and research
at the Texas Medical Center and the corre-