GRE plantWeather continues to be the biggest threat to staying on schedule in construction of the Great River Energy power plant near Cargill Malt. Construction Site Manager Dennis Pozarnsky said the one good thing about winter coming is the slick, sucking mud the construction crew is dealing with now will be frozen. Whenever it rains, water and mud slow down the work.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
SPIRITWOOD, N.D. — Weather continues to be the biggest threat to staying on schedule in construction of the Great River Energy power plant near Cargill Malt.
Construction Site Manager Dennis Pozarnsky said the one good thing about winter coming is the slick, sucking mud the construction crew is dealing with now will be frozen. Whenever it rains, water and mud slow down the work.
“The mud has definitely impacted us,” Pozarnsky said. “We’ve put down a lot of gravel, but the water soaks in and we get a greasy clay that’s really slippery.”
The 45 acres of lay-down area, where construction materials are carefully arranged in a grid of numbered streets and avenues, these days look more like muddy, sloppy wetlands without the vegetation. Pozarnsky describes the lay-down area as one giant Tinkertoy set in an area that’s been leveled and cleared for thousands of pieces of construction material. Plastic tents dot the area with fabrication shops, readying materials such as the ductwork. It’s a busy place and construction equipment can get bogged down in the slop.
“Rain and mud are still our biggest issue,” he said.
And although winter means the mud won’t be there, it presents a different set of problems. With a crew of 250 growing to 400 by Jan. 1, the cold weather becomes a factor and safety a priority. For example, it can get too cold to safely work on steel.
“If it gets too cold the steel gets slippery,” Pozarnsky said.
Right now, the boiler building is being constructed with enormous steel beams lowered into place by crane and bolted in by the crew. When it’s completed the boiler building will be 180 feet high, so the crane lowering the beams has to be at least that tall.
“The steel is staged and sorted, then the crane picks it up and swings it into place,” he said.
In fact, there are three or four cranes on the site. Each of them was used to put together the next largest crane. The tallest is called a tower crane, which stands 250 feet in the air and picking up and swinging the heavy and huge pieces of steel into place.
“And if the wind starts gusting 25 to 30 miles per hour, we have to stop the cranes,” Pozarnsky said.
One of the specialties on site now is the crane operators. The cab where the tower crane operator works sits at the top of the crane, which means the operator has to climb up nearly 250 feet to reach it.
“He crawls up to the cab and stays there all day,” Pozarnsky said. “These are very specialized workers. They’re picking up tons of steel so their job is critical.”
A complex and specialized facility such as a power plant is not often built. So although local and area companies are involved in its construction, specialty crafts such as the crane operators are also needed.
“This is a nationwide project with crafts from all over,” Pozarnsky said. “And all of them are very good at what they do.”
At this point the rain has slowed work in some areas a bit, but Pozarnsky said those workers are putting in time on Saturdays. The more construction they can get under roof before winter, the better, he said. At least this winter, crew members will have the multi-purpose building to warm up and take breaks, as construction moves toward its March 31, 2010, completion date.
“We’re pushing forward,” he said. “This winter is critical to us. We don’t need a bad winter.”
The backup boiler building, which will also house the administration offices, is enclosed now. Pozarnsky said he and other personnel will be moving out of the trailer and into the offices by the end of the month.
The backup boiler is just part of the built-in redundancy the power plant will have. Along with the backup boiler is its backup fuel source. If for any reason the natural gas fails, propane will be the fuel to the backup boiler. The main boiler is coal-fired.
The steam used to create electricity comes from gray water supplied by Cargill. However, Pozarnsky said, a backup source of water is also needed there. He said GRE is discussing the use of treated wastewater from Jamestown’s wastewater treatment plant as a secondary source.
“We have a contract with Cargill that we’re their primary energy source, so we have to have redundancy,” he said. “We want nothing to stop production.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com