FEMP Industrial Facilities Assessment Provides Roadmap to Savings for DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

November 11, 2003

Photo of truck carrying three containers.

A truck carries three containers to the WIPP site pictured in the distance.

Led by assessments of conservation opportunities funded by FEMP's Industrial Facilities Initiative, DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) will cut its water usage by 54 percent and compressed air costs by 58 percent annually.

WIPP requested assistance from FEMP through DOE's Denver Regional Office. The technical assistance effort was led by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory with input from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The Industrial Facilities Initiative is a collaboration between FEMP and DOE's Best Practices Program, part of DOE's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP). The FEMP initiative makes ITP's widely recognized technical expertise available to federal industrial facilities, offering plant-wide assessments of energy, waste, and productivity, or energy assessments for targeted systems. Because of FEMP's initiative, ITP's comprehensive approach to evaluating private-sector industrial facilities' energy efficiency and opportunities for improvement is now available to federal industrial facilities.

WIPP's energy manager, James Hedin, had tried for several years to acquire funding for targeted assessments of the compressed air system and water/wastewater facilities, but potential savings initially appeared small, and low-payback conservation projects rarely rate a high funding priority. Using the roadmap to savings provided by FEMP's assessments, WIPP now plans to make the recommended changes. Hedin credits the Industrial Facilities Initiative with opening the opportunity for WIPP to realize significant cost reductions and to become "a flagship for water reductions for DOE sites."

Four recommended measures will reduce compressed air system costs by about $40,000 per year, from $69,000 to $29,000:

  • lowering operating pressure to the appropriate level,

  • instituting a leak-prevention program,

  • modifying dryer equipment to prevent unnecessary purge, and

  • installing a downsized compressor nearer the point of use.

WIPP's motivation to conserve water results more from a sense of stewardship than from cost concerns. WIPP's water is provided at no charge from the City of Carlsbad (in consideration of infrastructure improvements provided by DOE during the construction of WIPP), and energy costs for pumping are low. However, severe drought in the last several years has resulted in reduced allotments to farmers, leading to the failure of some farming operations and a downturn in the local economy. The assessment recommended reducing the capacity of WIPP's on-site wastewater treatment system and other measures that could cut the facility's water use by 54 percent and save an estimated 2.9 million gallons per year.

For more information on FEMP's Industrial Facilities Initiative, please contact Michaela Martin at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 865-574-8688, martinma@ornl.gov, or Alison Thomas, FEMP, 202-586-2099, alison.thomas@ee.doe.gov.