Recommended preventative maintenance

Vicinity’s comprehensive maintenance services are offered year-round—during peak usage or before system turn-ons—to optimize steam efficiency, reliability, and cost savings.

Improve the operating performance of steam systems by taking preventive steps to avoid energy losses. Customers who have leveraged Vicinity’s preventive maintenance program have experienced the following benefits:

  • Conserved energy and reduced energy costs by improving system performance and eliminating inefficiencies.
  • Improved reliability by identifying problem areas that could cause unscheduled system outages.
  • Optimized capital expenditure and operating expenses by maximizing system efficiency and strategically planning for infrastructure investments with an identified budget for equipment repair or replacement.
  • Improved operating procedures by reviewing, refining, and documenting preventative maintenance best practices.
We partner with each of our customers to customize recurring service agreements for the summer and winter seasons, tailoring the maintenance services below to their specific needs. Reach out to your Account Manager today to understand the preventative maintenance services offered in your district.

Steam traps

  • Service description: Survey building, locate, identify, tag, and test steam trap performance.
  • Maintenance value: Ensure steam traps function correctly and prevent issues that can lead to energy waste, equipment damage, and safety hazards.

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRVs)

  • Service description: Identify valves’ make, model, size, and serial number. Test pilot valve for leaks, clean orifices, check diaphragm plates, test the gauging, and set to desired system pressure.
  • Maintenance value: Prevent system over-pressurization and relief valves from releasing steam into the atmosphere. Failed PRVs may improperly cycle open and close, both oversupplying and then starving the downstream equipment of steam.

Strainers

  • Service description: Inspect screens and clean out debris, evaluate source of debris, and troubleshoot. Ensure blow-down valves are functioning properly to flush trapped material.
  • Maintenance value: Reduce rust and pipe scale damage to valves and pumps. Ensure heat transfer surfaces are kept free of efficiency reducing deposits.

Heat exchangers

  • Service description: Perform water chemistry testing, determine if leaks exist, measure tube thickness, repair or plug tubes as needed, and perform preventative maintenance, such as hydrolasing or cleaning as needed.
  • Maintenance value: Recover efficiency losses, optimize operation of the exchangers, and reduce energy consumption.

Steam pipe

  • Service description: Inspect steam piping. Check for leaking joints, watermarks on insulation, and corrosion.
  • Maintenance value: Deliver safe and reliable steam into the building while reducing potential for steam emissions into the building.

Condensate return line

  • Service description: Inspect for leaks and corrosion. Check condensate pump seals for leaks. Check vent pipes for vapor emissions.
  • Maintenance value: Avoid condensate water spills, ensure proper evacuation of condensate from system lines, and identify the presence of leaking steam traps in the system.

Mechanical room hot water loop

  • Service description: Inspect all piping, inlet/outlet temperatures, and pressures on heat exchangers and mechanical pumps.
  • Maintenance value: Confirm adequate operation of key energy transfer equipment, such as heat exchangers, which supply building heat, hot water, or other process loads.

Seasonal and maintenance shutdowns/turn-ons

  • Service description: Manage closure and opening of Vicinity’s main service valve for seasonal system curtailment or start of use. Shutdowns require draining of systems while turn-ons require both draining of systems and operating pressure checks.
  • Maintenance value: Ensure safe and confined operation of Vicinity’s main service valve for shutdowns/turn-ons related to seasonal changes and maintenance activities. Reduce radiant energy losses, condensate accumulation in system piping, and mechanical room air space temperature. Prevent pipes from rotting and prepare systems to be dormant for an extended period by draining the systems for shutdowns.

Heating reimagined: industrial-scale heat pumps for building decarbonization

Revolutionizing the way we heat buildings by integrating industrial-scale heat pumps to produce carbon-free eSteam™

Industrial-scale heat pumps are revolutionizing the energy industry. With the ability to produce temperatures of up to 150C, these powerful systems have become a sustainable solution across the globe. As the demand for carbon-free heating increases, the shift away from fossil fuels is finally gaining momentum.

Vicinity is transforming district energy by installing an industrial-scale heat complex. This innovative heat pump complex will draw heat from nearby water sources to generate steam and improve the system’s efficiency. Ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed, the river intake system lifts heat from the river and brings it into our facilities.

Key facts

  • Our Cambridge heat pump will have a steam export capacity of 35MW (thermal)
  • The heat pump will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq ft. +/-
  • The heat pump will circulate through 24.5 million to 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River daily

How heat pumps work

  1. The heat pump compressor, powered by electricity from renewable resources compresses natural refrigerant to pressures upwards of 1,000 psig.
  2. The heated refrigerant is conducted to a heat exchanger for low-pressure steam generation.
  3. The low-pressure steam is transferred to a multi-stage steam compressor, which increases
    steam pressure from 5 psig to 220 psig, the required pressure for distribution into the district energy system.
  4. After generating steam, the refrigerant is routed to a feedwater pre-heating heat exchanger and is condensed.
  5. The liquified refrigerant is then expanded through an expansion valving arrangement. The expansion reduces the refrigerant pressure, gasifies the refrigerant, and sharply reduces the refrigerant temperature to less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. The cold, gaseous refrigerant is conducted to a river water heat exchanger to collect energy from the river water. The river water heat exchanger heats the gaseous refrigerant several degrees Fahrenheit while cooling the river water several degrees Fahrenheit. The cooled, gaseous refrigerant is conducted back to the heat pump compressor for reuse in the heat pump cycle.
 

How Vicinity is using heat pumps

Industrial-scale heat pumps will be installed in cities around the country where Vicinity’s facilities are located near water sources and already employ water intake systems. These heat pumps will extract heat from adjacent water sources, like the Charles and Schuylkill Rivers, to generate steam and improve the system’s overall efficiency.

Across all of our operations, heat pumps will be used with electric boilers and thermal storage technologies to fully decarbonize our operations.

This first heat pump complex in Cambridge will be powered by renewable electricity to efficiently harvest energy from the Charles River and return the water to a lower temperature.

Early design of the industrial-scale heat pump Vicinity Energy is developing in partnership with MAN Energy Solutions.

Why industrial heat pumps are important for Vicinity, our customers, and the environment

The global energy transition can only succeed with decarbonizing heat. Why? Heating in buildings is responsible for four gigatons (Gt) of CO2 emissions annually—10% of global emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The heating sector accounts for 30-40% of CO2 emissions globally.

Water-source heat pumps are a proven solution to fossil- fuel-driven heating because they can efficiently harness the renewable power of water sources.

In 2021, approximately 10% percent of the global demand for space heating was satisfied by heat pumps. In some countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, heat pumps are the most widely used heating source and have already begun integrating with district energy systems. The district system in Glasgow will leverage heat pumps to extract cold water from the adjacent River Clyde. This will cover over 80% of building heat demand and will deliver immediate carbon reductions of 50%.

By installing industrial-scale heat pumps at our central facilities, Vicinity is one step closer to instantly decarbonizing millions of square feet of building space for the good of our customers, communities, and the cities we operate. The impact of this plan is substantial: by 2035, Vicinity’s investments at our Kendall, MA facility will reduce the carbon intensity of our steam by 50%, the equivalent of 400,000 tons.

How district energy is helping commercial buildings meet Boston’s BERDO 2.0 requirements

Like many cities nationwide, Boston has set aggressive climate goals to curb the harmful effects of climate change. Boston aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050, meaning the City will only be able to release as much carbon as the environment can safely absorb.

But how does the City plan to make this happen?

In large part, carbon neutrality will come from decarbonizing the energy-intensive buildings that operate in Boston: commercial offices, hospitals, colleges and universities, and many others.

The Building Emissions Reductions and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), originally enacted in 2013, required large Boston buildings to report and disclose their emissions.

In 2021, however, the amended ordinance — BERDO 2.0 — was unanimously passed by the Boston City Council and signed into law, officially moving the ordinance beyond reporting and setting enforceable emissions standards for buildings. In 2023, BERDO 2.0 policies and procedures were finalized.

Crucially, the ordinance aims to eliminate the 70% of greenhouse gas emissions that commercial buildings contribute to the City of Boston.

What BERDO 2.0 means for Boston building owners and developers

The 2021 amendment to BERDO gives the City of Boston authority to set emissions standards for large existing buildings. The emissions thresholds will decrease to reach net zero by 2050.

BERDO 2.0 states enforceable minimum building emissions performance standards, measured in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square foot per year. These emissions standards differ by building use but will begin to apply in 2025 for already-covered buildings and in 2030 for newly-covered buildings. Based on 2022 emissions reporting, several hundred buildings in Boston are projected to exceed their emissions limit in 2025.

BERDO 2.0 also imposes changes in enforcement penalties. The amended ordinance introduced fines for failing to meet the performance standard and inaccurate reporting.

BERDO 2.0 does not just apply to commercial buildings, but also applies to the following:

  • Non-residential buildings that are 20,000 square feet or larger.
  • Residential buildings that have 15 or more units.
  • Any parcel with multiple buildings that sum to at least 20,000 square feet or 15 units.

In addition, the amended ordinance proposes potential ways buildings can achieve their required emissions reductions, including on-site energy efficiency or renewable energy measures, fuel switching, and clean electricity purchasing options like Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) Class I eligible Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) generated by non-CO2e emitting sources, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with non-CO2e emitting renewable sources.

To find out whether they are over the emissions limit and get an estimated emission reduction forecast, buildings can use the City of Boston’s BERDO emissions calculator. 

How district energy meets BERDO 2.0 requirements

Our team of experts at Vicinity is prepared to help building owners and developers in Boston meet the aggressive emissions reduction requirements posed by BERDO 2.0 and avoid paying alternative compliance payments.

Our clean energy future plan outlines our roadmap to reaching net zero carbon emissions across all our operations by 2050 or sooner. Central to our decarbonization plan is the innovative eSteam™ product.

To generate eSteam™, Vicinity will import carbon-free electrons through co-located substations to power electric boilers, coupled with industrial-scale heat pumps and thermal batteries, to deliver electrified, carbon-free steam, known as eSteam™, for heating, cooling, sterilization, humidification, and other thermal energy needs.

Building upon success stories in European countries like Norway, Finland, and Sweden, Vicinity is electrifying our district energy systems. Our approach is based on our ability to:

  • Leverage established technologies such as industrial-scale electric boilers and heat pumps to convert electricity into steam;
  • ​Capitalize on the flexibility of our existing assets that connect to the electric transmission system today​;
  • Take advantage of the future economics of renewable electricity to introduce green electrons to our fuel mix;
  • And utilize the agility of fuel-agnostic district energy to decarbonize, easily “flipping the switch” to greener fuels​.

By electrifying our central facilities, all our customers can access carbon-free eSteam™ to meet building performance standards and avoid costly building modifications.

Our team is actively working towards our goal of net zero. In November 2022, we kicked off our electrification plans by deconstructing a steam turbine at our Kendall facility. We are installing an electric boiler in its place, which will enter service in 2024.

In April 2023, we took another crucial step in our clean energy future plans by announcing our partnership with MAN Energy Solutions to develop low-temperature source heat pump systems for steam generation. Currently, we are designing the heat pump complex, which will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq. ft. and will circulate through 24.5 million to 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River each day, returning the water to the river at a lower temperature and ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed.

Meeting BERDO 2.0 requirements with eSteam™

eSteam™ is carbon-free and recognized in the BERDO 2.0 regulations. This thermal product offers a straightforward solution for commercial landlords and developers trying to meet the ordinance’s carbon-reduction goals.

Vicinity’s eSteam™ is recognized as emissions-free by BERDO 2.0 regulations, providing customers with a compliant and cost-effective solution.

The Vicinity team assists customers in Boston with BERDO 2.0 reporting energy usage through Energy Star Portfolio Manager, one of the three reporting requirements set by BERDO 2.0.

Our team sends energy usage data and an annual energy summary to customers every month, making their reporting process more efficient and accurate.

Carbon reduction acts in Boston and beyond

While Boston is undoubtedly leading the country by reimagining the energy industry, many other cities around the U.S. are planning to enact ordinances similar to BERDO 2.0.

The City of Baltimore, for example, is currently in the implementation stages of the Climate Solutions Now Act, or SB 528. The act proposes a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 60% by 2031, with net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Vicinity’s district energy systems are uniquely poised to help building owners and developers in Boston, Cambridge, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and more to meet building performance standards today and in the future.

 

Heating reimagined: heat pumps for building decarbonization

Industrial heat pumps are revolutionizing the way we heat buildings. With the ability to produce temperatures of up to 150C, these robust systems have become a sustainable solution for across the globe. As the demand for carbon-free heating increases, the shift away from fossil fuels is finally gaining momentum.

Vicinity is diving into the world of heat pumps

Vicinity is entering a new era of sustainability and installing heat pumps as a cutting-edge technology that provides a carbon-free heating solution to our customers and aligns with ambitious emissions reduction goals nationwide.

In April 2023, Vicinity announced our partnership with MAN Energy Solutions, a trailblazer hailing from Augsburg, Germany. This dynamic collaboration will reshape our understanding of sustainability as we develop low-temperature source heat pump systems for eSteam™ generation. These plans are already in motion as we look ahead to 2026 when Vicinity’s Kendall facility in Cambridge will be home to Massachusetts’s largest industrial-scale heat pump complex.

Drawing inspiration from heat pump successes in Europe, this venture will create ripples on a national scale and serve as a testament to Boston’s commitment to shaping a greener future. Powered by renewable electricity, Vicinity’s heat pump complex will safely and efficiently harvest energy from the Charles River, returning it at a lower temperature.

With the heating sector responsible for a staggering 30 to 40% of global CO2 emissions, the time to implement sustainable energy solutions is now. Vicinity’s sustainability plans mirror the examples set by cities like Glasgow, Scotland, and Drammen, Norway, where water-source heat pumps have already made their mark. The first water-source heat pump that emerged in Glasgow in 2021 is three times more efficient than natural gas boilers and allows the city to tap into the renewable power of the River Clyde, just as Vicinity will do in with the Charles River in Cambridge, MA.

How will Vicinity’s heat pump complex work?

Vicinity is transforming district energy in the cities we operate in by installing an industrial-scale heat complex. By 2026, this complex will be operational at our Kendall facility, and installation in other systems in cities like Philadelphia and Kansas City will follow.

This innovative heat pump will draw heat from nearby water sources to generate steam and improve the system’s efficiency. The technology functions similarly to an air conditioning system, only it accomplishes the reverse on a much grander scale. Ensuring that the river and its ecosystems remain unharmed, the river intake system lifts heat from the river and brings it into our facilities.

Since most of this heat is transported rather than generated, heat pumps are much more efficient than traditional heating methods such as natural gas boilers and heaters, resulting in lower operational costs for building owners.

So, how are our plans progressing? Today, we are designing our Kendall Square facility in partnership with Germany-based MAN Energy Solutions. The heat pump will occupy a space of approximately 25,000 sq ft., and it will circulate through 24.5 million – 49 million gallons of water from the Charles River each day, returning the water to the river at a lower temperature.

Early design of the industrial-scale heat pump Vicinity Energy is developing in partnership with MAN Energy Solutions.

Our systems will also employ electric boilers and molten salt thermal battery storage to fully decarbonize our footprint. Leveraging our existing system of underground steam pipes, we will seamlessly provide our customers with carbon-free eSteam™. Our first electric boiler will enter service in Cambridge in 2024.

District energy systems are agile. By replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with industrial-scale technologies such as heat pumps, we can effectively decarbonize our communities without retrofitting or installing new electrical infrastructure in our customers’ buildings.

White paper: Revolutionizing urban sustainability

We’re amid an energy transformation driven by a mounting global crisis: climate change. Across the world, we are experiencing more extreme weather events due to accelerating levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigating carbon in the production and distribution of energy is now just as critically important as our society’s ever-growing need for energy itself. It’s clear that we need resilient, reliable and agile energy solutions…now. 

District energy systems, like Vicinity’s, are uniquely positioned to take advantage of existing infrastructure in conjunction with critical technological advancements to cost-effectively decarbonize quickly. This white paper highlights the benefits of district energy in a decarbonizing world, specifically how electrifying district energy can help urban centers rapidly and affordably achieve city and state carbon reduction goals.

Learn more about how the electrification of district energy systems can help U.S. cities achieve building decarbonization.