District Energy – Steam

UBC’s original Steam plant has generated and distributed steam to heat academic buildings since 1924. The system burns natural gas in the powerhouse to produce steam. It then distributes the steam to campus buildings via 14 kilometres of steam piping and tunnels.

Leaks are an inherent risk with steam-based district energy systems

How the SDES Works

  • The steam is used to transfer heat to the secondary side heating loop of most buildings
  • The steam heat (i.e. energy) is then transferred to UBC buildings through either a steam to hot water heat exchanger that’s heated hydronically, or through steam radiators found in older campus buildings constructed around the 1930s
  • Once the steam is transferred to a building, it cools down and condenses back to water. Known as condensate, this water is then returned to the UBC powerhouse where it’s heated up to produce steam, and the whole process begins again

One of the most successful elements of UBC’s ECOTrek energy and water retrofit project was replacing failed condensate return lines. After ECOTrek was completed, our condensate return went from 20 per cent to nearly 90 per cent in 2008, allowing us to save significant amounts of energy and water.

New Hot Water System to Generate Savings

By 2014, the deferred maintenance of UBC’s aging steam system was estimated at $190 million. Remarkably, the need for this maintenance will be eliminated with UBC’s new hot water system, scheduled for completion in 2015. The hot water system will reduce UBC’s operating costs and play a major role in helping UBC to achieve its aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.