Energy Treasure Hunt Strikes “Liquid Gold” in Water Usage Savings

Since the Olin Brass Energy Team formed in 2010, its mantra has been to “find energy savings wherever they’re hiding.” So when the group decided to conduct an “Energy Treasure Hunt” at the East Alton facilities last February, they knew just what to expect – or so they thought.

 “We had been so focused on steam and compressed air components, and the natural gas and electricity savings they generated, that we had completely overlooked water usage,” Energy Team spokesman Don Ballard said.

As it turned out, that’s where the treasure was hiding.

Of course, that is exactly what the Treasure Hunt is designed to find. A fundamental component of the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star program, whose certification Olin Brass has been pursuing since 2011, the Treasure Hunt is defined as “a 2 or 3-day event that engages employees in identifying low-cost energy savings opportunities from behavioral, operational, and maintenance actions.”

To facilitate their Treasure Hunt, the Energy Team brought in expert consultant Bruce Bremer, whose company, Bremer Energy Consulting, earned Energy Star awards for 6 consecutive years while working for a wide variety of manufacturing and industrial firms.

Bremer personally facilitated the three-day event, which began by splitting the participants into three teams, each with 3-4 members and each charged with investigating a different part of the facility. They looked everywhere, at every piece of equipment and every procedure – motors, lighting, compressed air, maintenance procedures, offices, steam, fans, pumping systems and more – to identify savings opportunities, evaluate their feasibility, and recommend corrective measures.

The results were eye-opening. A preliminary internal report from Bremer estimated that the Treasure Hunt had identified over $146,000 in potential savings. And well over one-third of that figure consisted of opportunities related to water usage, where corrections were simple and inexpensive and potential savings substantial. 

Corrective work began almost immediately, Ballard said. “It was March when we started attacking the water issues,” he said, “and we saw improvement right away.” The measures they took were simple and inexpensive – installing shut off valves and changing nozzle designs, for example – but the improvement seemed so dramatic that Ballard asked a team member from accounting to start tracking water expenditures.

The numbers that came back were impressive, indeed. By the end of July, Ballard said, their water usage savings had hit $50,000 – above and beyond all expectations.

That’s just one example of the “hidden treasure” Olin Brass’s first Energy Treasure Hunt uncovered. But it was more than enough to convince Don Ballard and the rest of the Energy Team that the Treasure Hunt process is well worth repeating. The sooner the better!

A subsidiary of Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc., Olin Brass is a world leader in its own right, one of the oldest, most innovative and diverse producers of copper alloys and products in the world. With six domestic operating units and an international group serving Asia and the Pacific Rim, the organization is poised to maintain and expand its presence in copper markets worldwide.  For more information, please visit