Sustainable Moss

Natural Moss Replaces 80% of Chemicals in RTP Cooling Towers

  • Moss cleans towers and removes scale and corrosion, projected to save nearly 1.5 million gallons of water annually
  • Projected to reduce chemical use by approximately 6,000 pounds
  • Opportunity to scale results at other Biogen facilities

Seventy-five hundred pounds of chemicals and millions of gallons of water annually. That’s what it took to keep the cooling towers at our Research Triangle Park (RTP) facilities clear of scale (mineral buildup), corrosion and bacteria.

Many manufacturing facilities use water for cooling and that water, in turn, must be cooled for reuse or disposal. RTP has six towers in all, in which water is pumped to the top for cooling. Some evaporates, leaving problematic mineral concentrates behind. The rest cools as it trickles through vertical matrices, collecting impurities from the air during its descent through the open structures.

We were intrigued when a vendor introduced us to a new, and far more environmentally sustainable, solution: natural sphagnum moss, now available for commercial use. The moss naturally cleans water, removes scale and corrosion and allows significant reductions in water and chemical use. 

RTP’s Maintenance Utilities team saw the moss’s potential and launched a pilot in the plant’s smaller towers in 2018. The pilot’s results were impressive, and the larger towers were then switched to the moss. Since that switch, we project chemical reductions of approximately 80 percent — about 6,000 pounds — and savings of almost 1.5 million gallons of water annually.

This new approach helps support our commitment to ensure that water use at our major facilities is within our “fair, just and proportionate” share of locally available renewable supply.  

“It’s pretty cool,” said Curt Lucero, Manager, Maintenance at RTP. “You take these drums of chemicals that you used to need and you just put them to the side. But the big savings is, we use less water. Down here in North Carolina this is especially helpful in mid-summer if we go into a drought. The clear message is, this works.”

Others in the company agree, as demonstrated when the Maintenance Utilities team received a Biogen EHS Award for Sustainability for this promising and environmentally meaningful project.

We are evaluating the results and data of this pilot project and, based on those results and data, may roll out this technique to our other manufacturing facilities.