ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Three boilers at Anniston Army Depot capable of producing 80,000 pounds of steam per hour are being replaced during the next year with smaller, more energy efficient models.

The first of the three boiler replacements was completed earlier this month - exchanging an inoperable unit which had been in place since 1998 with a smaller boiler able to produce 20,000 pounds of steam per hour.

The replacement is in response to a lessened need for steam throughout ANAD's industrial complex.

"Over the years, we have added natural gas to the buildings in the production area," said Perry Walters, a mechanical engineer for the depot's Directorate of Public Works.

The addition of natural gas has reduced the need for steam, which, by the end of this year will only be used in cleaning and finishing processes on the installation.

An additional 24 buildings are being converted to use natural gas heating this year, which is more efficient than steam heating.

"When a boiler makes steam, it's about 80 percent efficient," said Walters. "Your efficiency goes down as you send the steam through pipes to the buildings."

Natural gas heat, meanwhile, is expected to maintain efficiency of about 80 percent at the building it is being used to heat.

The boiler replacement and natural gas conversion projects are part of a larger utility energy service contract with Alabama Power Company.

The contract reviewed energy usage throughout the installation and noted areas where replacement of equipment could save the installation money through increased efficiency.

Startup on the recently installed 20,000 pound capacity boiler is scheduled for August. Another large boiler will be removed in August and its replacement is scheduled to be operational in November.