Study finds privatized natural gas systems reduce AF consumption

  • Published
  • By Kevin Elliott
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center recently completed analysis of privatized natural gas system consumption levels at Air Force, Air National Guard and Reserve bases in the continental United States. The results are better than expected.

The study examined all 16 privatized Air Force natural gas systems, comparing pre-privatization consumption to current levels.

"We evaluated consumption for the four years before the systems were privatized and compared it to the most recent four years under privatization," said Dan Soto, AFCEC Energy Directorate Measurement and Analysis Division chief. "The study revealed an average 45-percent consumption decrease since privatization. After normalizing for the other 128 non-privatized natural gas systems, we found a 32-percent reduction, on average, in consumption from our privatized natural gas systems when compared to non-privatized systems. That was much better than we anticipated."

The Army has conducted similar research, with comparable results.

"The Army did a study of 21 of their active-duty bases and found a 31-percent natural gas consumption savings," Soto said. "The fact that our numbers track so closely with the Army's, when they had a larger sample size, gives me confidence in our findings."

The crucial driver of the reduction seems to be the utilities infrastructure improvements required under utilities privatization contracts.

"These consumption efficiencies have been gained largely by repairing leaks," said Rick Weston, director of the AFCEC UP program management office. "Utilities privatization contracts require system compliance with current industry standards, and those standards do not allow for as many leaks as some of our systems have. So, by privatizing these utilities, we get more efficient, and safer infrastructure. The private system owner must also maintain that infrastructure to current health and safety standards for the life of the contract."

Utilities privatization involves a "bill of sale" conveyance of Air Force utility systems to a third party, such as a municipal, private, regional, district or cooperative utility company. The average life of a UP contract is 50 years.

The 1998 Defense Reform Initiative Directive 49 mandates all U.S. military installations privative their utilities systems where feasible and economically viable. Since then, the Air Force has been in the process of privatizing most of the utility systems on its bases in the continental United States. Over the past 17 years, 66 systems have been privatized, valued at $3.6 billion and representing a cost avoidance of $511 million for the Air Force.

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