Elm Road coal unit stays down due to turbine blade problems

The new Unit 1 of the coal-fired Elm Road power plant was out of service in the first quarter of this year due to an outage that began last fall that was extended when some problems turned up, WE Energies said in an April 30 quarterly project update filed at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

In November 2003, the PSC approved the construction of two supercritical pulverized coal units, each sized at 615 MW, and common systems at Elm Road, which is an expansion of the existing Oak Creek coal plant. Turnover and achievement of commercial operation of Unit 1 (including common systems) and Unit 2 was completed in February 2010 and January 2011, respectively.

“With the achievement of commercial operation on both units, construction of the facility is essentially complete,” said the quarterly update. “As such, Elm Road Services, LLC (‘ERS’) and Bechtel Power Corporation (‘Bechtel’), the engineering, procurement, and construction (‘EPC’) contractor for the facility, are currently focusing on achieving Final Acceptance of both units.”

Final acceptance activities include: completion of all outstanding punchlist items; completion of remaining tuning and testing activities; and demobilization of the construction site. Final acceptance of both units is anticipated to be completed in 2012.

In the first quarter of this year, the equivalent availability factor and the equivalent forced outage factor for Unit 1 was zero in both cases, and for Unit 2 it was 65.5% for equivalent availability factor and 33.1% for equivalent forced outage factor.

In September 2011, Unit 1 was taken out of service for a planned annual inspection outage. Planned activities included an inspection of the flue gas desulfurization (FGD) absorber vessel as part of an interim corrosion inspection and repair program and completion of several unrelated punch list and warranty claims. During this outage, an inspection of the low pressure (LP) turbine revealed indications of unknown deposits on some of the turbine blades.

Following additional review, warranty claims were filed with Bechtel and the decision was made to extend the outage to allow disassembly of the steam turbine and boiler feed pump turbines to perform a more detailed inspection. This included removal of blades from the turbine rotors for inspection, cleaning and subsequent reassembly which also necessitated the procurement of some long lead time replacement blades. Root cause evaluations of these issues continue, the April 30 filing noted.

“With the extension of the fall outage, plans to implement a permanent solution to the absorber corrosion problem were moved up,” the filing added about Unit 1. “Lining of the absorber vessel with a highly corrosion resistant material has been completed. Completion of this work will preclude the need for an additional extended spring 2012 outage as was previously planned.”

On Jan. 24, Unit 2 was taken out of service to repair a leak in the deaerator. The leak was repaired and a design modification was developed. This modification has been implemented on Unit 1 and will be implemented on Unit 2 during the upcoming fall 2012 planned outage. During this outage additional work was performed including inspection of LP turbine blades, inspection and repair of the #5 feedwater heater, and repair of an ID fan hydraulic line. The unit returned to service on Feb. 21. Except for one other outage of less than a day in duration, the unit operated reliably for the remainder of the first quarter.

Wisconsin Energy Corp. (NYSE: WEC), based in Milwaukee, serves more than 1.1 million electric customers in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and more than 1 million natural gas customers in Wisconsin. The company’s principal utility is We Energies. The company’s other major subsidiary, We Power, designs, builds and owns electric generating plants.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.