The NIH Central Utility Plant (CUP) houses five traditional gas- and oil-fired boilers that produce steam. Steam is needed for a myriad of NIH campus operations. These include space conditioning, hot water heating, medical equipment sterilization, autoclaves, animal cage and rack washing, dishwashing, and other process uses. The CUP generates and distributes ~ 1.2 billion pounds of steam per year to the NIH Bethesda campus buildings. The amount of electrical power the chiller plant consumed is 36 MW—enough to cool 30,000 single-family homes. There are over 300 manholes located around the campus that allow inspections and maintenance of the underground utilities. The electric cost to run just one chiller for one day is $8,300; to run all 12 for one day (required during the hottest summer days) is almost $100,000.
The plant distributes utilities to NIH’s buildings underground via
2 miles of walkable tunnels
2 miles of concrete trench
Natural gas lines totaling ~ 3.6 miles in length
Domestic water lines totaling ~ 12 miles in length
Steam and chilled water pipe lines totaling over 7 miles
The NIH Boiler Plant, part of the Central Utility Plant (CUP), houses five gas-fired boilers. Each year, the plant burns about 3 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas to generate about 1.8 billion pounds of steam for the buildings and facilities of the NIH Bethesda Campus. When necessary, the boilers can also be run on No. 2 fuel oil.
The CUP’s twelve chillers consume about 165,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year, roughly equivalent to the electrical energy required to air condition 100,000 Maryland households for a year. The total energy use (fuel and electricity) at NIH is equivalent to the energy used by 50,000 average Maryland homes.
Utilities are distributed to NIH buildings through underground walkable tunnels (2 miles), concrete trenches (2 miles), natural gas lines (3.6 miles), domestic water lines (12 miles) and steam and chilled water pipes (over 7 miles). There are over 300 manholes located around the campus, facilitating inspection and maintenance of the grounds utilities.
CUP Facts and Figures
As of January, 2016||
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11.8 million sq. ft.||
11.8 million sq. ft.|
Energy Sources|| ||
Number of units||
5 boilers, 1 cogeneration plant|
Welded steel, schedule 80 with insulation||
Welded steel, schedule 80 with insulation|
Piping trench length||
Cogeneration plant capacity||
The Central Utility Plant (CUP) burns 3 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas per year to generate 1.8 billion pounds of steam and 190,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per year of electricity.
The amount of natural gas burned in the CUP in a year is equivalent to 26 million gallons of gasoline.
In addition, NIH purchases 300,000 MWh per year of electricity.
The total energy use (fuel and electricity) at NIH is equivalent to the energy used by 50,000 average Maryland homes.
The total electricity use by NIH, 490,000 MWh per year, is equivalent to the electricity use by 35,000 Maryland homes.
In order to meet NIH’s air conditioning needs, NIH operates a large chiller plant. The chiller plant peak electrical power requirement is 36 MW.
Annual power use is 165,000 MWh per year which is equivalent to the power used for air conditioning by more than 100,000 Maryland households.