Rubis – fuelling tourism

According to the latest figures and judging by the smiles on most hoteliers’ faces, tourism is finally on the up again in Jersey.

These green shoots will be a welcome sight. Running a hotel is an expensive business, not just in operating costs but owners have to constantly invest in their product.

You wouldn’t have to look much further for evidence of this constantly shifting investment than the Merton Hotel complex on Belvedere Hill, St. Saviour. Some parts of the site date back to the early 1920s and others such as the Merton Suites and Aquadome are ultra-modern. This brings with it one major headache: how to produce enough energy as cost-effectively as possible to heat rooms, provide steaming hot water for guests and keep the swimming pool and leisure complex at the right temperature.

The Merton is part of the Seymour Hotel Group, which includes the Pomme d’Or, the Greenhills Hotel, the iconic Watersplash at St Ouen and the De La Plage apartments near the Havre des Pas bathing pool. This is a complex business with multifaceted energy requirements.

With 286 guest rooms and the Merton Suites, the Merton is Jersey’s largest hotel. As well as guest rooms, there are also 34 staff bedrooms within the hotel itself and a further 51 in two onsite annexes, and a converted coach house containing eight manager’s flats. All of these rooms have their own bathroom facilities so as well as heating them when the weather’s a bit chilly, there is an almost constant demand for hot water.

The Merton uses multiple energy supplies including electricity and gas, but by far the biggest fuel source is oil, because it is acknowledged as the cheapest and most cost efficient means of powering central heating. But the Merton has harnessed a much older source of power to heat the water that supplies its radiators, bathrooms, laundry and dishwashers: steam.

The boiler house contains three oil-fired steam boilers, each capable of producing 3,600 kg per hour of steam and can consume up to 160 litres of oil every hour. That means the two mega storage tanks have to be kept topped up all year round.

Generating that amount of energy requires a lot of fuel and the maintenance team need to make sure that the two huge storage tanks are always kept topped up.

Dave Donoghue, Senior Engineer at Seymours, says, “We are very conscious of the amount of energy we use. Over the last decade we have reduced oil consumption across the Merton complex by about 25%, by introducing better controls, processes and making a significant capital investment in energy saving equipment. Oil is still, however, the most cost effective fuel we can currently use to make sure we are delivering what our guests and staff need, and by using the oil to generate steam we are maximising its potential and minimising its impact.

The boiler uses about 1,000 litres of fuel per day and over half a million litres every year, which is what is required to generate enough steam to heat all of the heating services for the entire Merton complex. The steam is distributed through pipelines around the complex at a temperature of 165°C. As the steam does its job and gives up its heat, it condenses back to water which is stored in tanks from where it is pumped back to the boiler house ready to be re-heated, and so the process begins all over again.

The fuel volume in the tanks is monitored electronically by Seymour Hotel Group’s oil supplier RUBiS, who make sure that deliveries are planned to meet the demand, which can vary from month to month. Because of the disparity in age of the various buildings around the complex there are always challenges to maintaining optimum efficiency.

“In a brand new building, state of the art equipment and building management systems can be planned on the drawing board”, says David Seymour, Managing Director of the Seymour Group. “We don’t have that luxury in all parts of the building [at the Merton] and we have to work with what we have. That’s why it’s really important to have a fuel supplier that really understands our business, and ensuring that we can operate efficiently even at peak times. We have been with Rubis for over 40 years and in that time they have developed a keen understanding not just of our business, but the industry as a whole and they have been with us, by our side.”

Tourism may not be as buoyant as it was in the heydays of the 1960s and 70s when the Merton Hotel was extended and improved several times but as visitors once again flock to our sunny shores the team maintains a close eye on its overall offering, and that includes behind-the-scenes infrastructure such as power and energy supplies. Rubis is still by the hotel’s side, investing in its own products and services to make sure the Merton is assured its energy needs are sustainable in the longer term.