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One man’s waste is another man’s energy

Master Sgt. Peter Brestak, 821st Support Squadron, stands next to a rotary fuel burner that engineers retrofitted to burn waste JP-8 and reclaimed petroleum lubricants. By burning waste JP-8 and petroleum products, the engineers were able to save the Air Force more than $200,000 per year in fuel costs alone. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Zhenhua Xie)

Master Sgt. Peter Brestak, 821st Support Squadron, stands next to a rotary fuel burner that engineers retrofitted to burn waste JP-8 and reclaimed petroleum lubricants. By burning waste JP-8 and petroleum products, the engineers were able to save the Air Force more than $200,000 per year in fuel costs alone. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Zhenhua Xie)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- In a remote part of the world, 75 miles from the closest Inuit village, 821st Support Squadron Civil Engineering Flight Airmen and contractors are finding ways to maximize the limited resources at Thule.

Thule AB survives solely on JP-8 fuel. JP-8 serves all energy requirements, from vehicle and air transportation, to power generation and steam distribution to heat the base. In total, the base consumes roughly 11 million gallons of JP-8 every year. With ever-increasing fuel costs, this puts a financial strain on the Air Force and the 21st Space Wing. However, the civil engineers at Thule have created multiple solutions to minimize consumption with energy efficient renovations, lighting upgrades, and a recent retrofit to the power production plant to capture exhaust heat off the generators to be converted into steam heat production.

One primary source of Thule waste energy savings is the "K-Plant" site. Inside K-Plant is a rotary fuel burner that engineers retrofitted to burn waste JP-8 and reclaimed petroleum lubricants. This burner disposes of more than 35,000 gallons of reclaimed JP-8 and fuel oil annually. This process negates the need for shipping waste back to the United States for processing, saving the government $200,000 per year. In addition is an added fuel cost savings. The burner is connected to a boiler that produces steam that is distributed for heating across the base. Every gallon of waste JP-8 and oil burned is a gallon of JP-8 saved at the other steam production plants. At $3.95 per gallon for JP-8 in 2012, this equates to an added energy savings of more than $138,000 per year.

Additionally, Thule is procuring a second waste JP-8 fuel oil burner to rectify past environmental discrepancies. Since the Cold War, Tank 34 was used to collect waste fuel from the rest of the 100 million gallons of fuel storage Thule once had as the Arctic strategic reserve. Over the years, the storage capacity was drawn down to 27.7 million gallons, but waste fuel was still being collected in Tank 34 until the practice was officially stopped in 2007. This created 360,000 gallons of waste fuel with no means to process it, as the single burner in K-Plant was already operating at capacity. Sending the waste back to the US would have incurred a possible cost as high as $2 million. The decision to acquire a second burner will enable the government to avert the $2 million disposal cost, alleviate a long standing environmental discrepancy, while at the same time saving an additional $1,280,000 in heating fuel cost. All of this is being realized with just $361,400 for an immediate 4:1 return on investment.

Most Air Force bases rarely get the opportunity to make energy innovation projects that have such a direct impact on their energy consumption. Thule AB is unique in that their engineers can easily equate any energy project savings into gallons of fuel that can be saved. Every pound of steam that is produced by consuming reclaimed fuel is one pound of steam that doesn't have to be produced with JP-8. Coupled with other projects that capture generator engine exhaust to create steam, Thule will be able to run entire sections of the base on waste byproduct alone. What would usually be waste at any other base provides life sustaining heat in the Arctic, and saves money for the rest of the Air Force. Thule - leading the way in environmental stewardship through innovation.

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