Chiller System Optimization Platform Saves Energy at University of Tulsa

The University of Tulsa Oklahoma serves more than 4,500 students.

The University of Tulsa (TU) places a premium not only on education but the judicious use of energy for the growing campus. It’s why TU installed an optimization software platform on its central chiller plant, which allowed it to reduce the kilowatt (kW) per ton of cooling capacity of three water-cooled chillers by 25% - resulting in an annual savings of $51,000. The system also eliminated the unplanned shutdown of the chillers, allowing the university to avoid as much as $300,000 in costs to restore them to their original design condition.


Chiller Efficiency a Top Priority

Founded in 1894 and located on 200 acres in Tulsa, Oklahoma, TU is a private educational institution serving more than 4,500 students. It also employs more than 1,200 faculty and staff and has experienced steady growth. The university’s central plant houses equipment used to heat and cool campus facilities, comprised of more  than 100 buildings, including classrooms, labs, residence halls and sports facilities, as well as Gilcrease Museum.

As TU continues to grow, administrators wanted to ensure the institution’s utility infrastructure efficiently delivers heating and cooling in support of its sustainability goals. Managing peak load and optimizing energy usage of is a cornerstone of these efforts. 

The need to pay close attention to the university’s central chiller plant has always been a priority given the energy required to power the chillers, said Michael Bolien, Manager of Central Plant Operations, University of Tulsa. At TU, seven water-cooled chillers provide 7,000 tons of cooling capacity to all university facilities. 
“Over the past five years, TU has had a 17% increase in cooling load, based on the square footage of new buildings. Because our central chiller plant is our biggest energy user, optimizing its operations is our first line of defense,” said Bolien.


More Chiller Monitoring and Measurement Needed

The ability to gain chiller efficiencies – while meeting the need for more chilled water – isn’t without its challenges, driving the need to address the chillers’ existing control system.

TU uses a Building Automation System (BAS) and a separate chiller control system to operate its chillers. At most industrial and commercial facilities, these systems work together to ensure optimal chiller performance. The university, however, only used the legacy BAS system to turn equipment on and off and make setpoint changes. The chiller control system also didn’t have the ability to collect or interpret data needed to continually improve chiller performance. Additionally, existing monitoring equipment didn’t provide accurate sensor data necessary for fault detection and diagnostics, making system optimization difficult.

Another challenge, which is common for many, was the need to collect and assess data without requiring unnecessary time and attention given a lean operations staff. 


Calculated Part Load Value (CPLV) Curve Reveals Inefficiencies

To support TU’s need for better chiller system control and data acquisition, Hudson Technologies Global Energy Services installed its SMARTenergy OPS® optimization platform to provide real-time continuous monitoring of the chiller system and gain access to key data points to improve system performance. 

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