GRE working to catch up on projectThe tough winter and worse spring hampered construction of Great River Energy’s $276 million power plant near this town, so officials are ramping up the number of workers to catch up.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
SPIRITWOOD, N.D. — The tough winter and worse spring hampered construction of Great River Energy’s $276 million power plant near this town, so officials are ramping up the number of workers to catch up.
Dennis Pozarnsky, GRE’s construction site manager, said Monday there were 300 workers on site and 20 a day are being added until the number reaches 500. The idea is to make up lost time this summer and get as much under roof as possible.
“By winter we have to be enclosed,” he said and added jokingly, “And winter could happen any day now. No, we need to keep the faith — summer will come.”
Although the snow and rain of winter created adverse conditions, the spring melt with mud 2-3 feet deep made the site dangerous for workers and equipment. Construction officials shut it down for a couple of weeks in April and early May for safety. Pozarnsky said the priority was to get the site in shape before work continued. During those weeks lagoons were created and runoff pumped into them. At this point, the construction site has several small ponds collecting water pumped into them. Along with other site preparation, more gravel was dumped throughout the site to aid the movement of heavy equipment.
“We did a lot of site work on the drainage,” he said. “For two, three weeks it was very unsafe on the site.”
The original deadline for completion of the coal-fired power plant was March 31, 2010. The winter and spring changed all that.
“Now we’re shooting for summer,” Pozarnsky said. “We’ll be up and running in spring and testing all summer. Our first commercial operations day is Oct. 1. That’s the date on our contract obligation with Cargill for steam.”
It may not look like a lot is happening on the site, Pozarnsky said, because most of the work is going on inside the auxiliary building and the equipment is already in place. The building houses two backup boilers and the water treatment equipment. Workers were everywhere among drums, pipes and equipment Monday. Much of the work is wiring everything all together, he said.
“The backup boilers are used if we need to take down the main boiler for maintenance or some other reason,” he said. The backup boilers run on propane or natural gas, not coal.
GRE will have two sources of gray water when it goes online next fall. Both will need treatment to get clean enough to be used in the boilers. Trenches and pipe are going in now from Cargill’s lagoons to the power plant. Stutsman Rural Water District has also started work on pipes to carry and return water provided by the Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“We’ll combine the two sources of water or use whichever is easiest at the time,” Pozarnsky said.
The boiler building is a mass of steel beams rising nearly 200 feet in the air. Pozarnsky said with the wet weather and mud Monday, they decided not to chance using the giant cranes. Construction crews worked on the massive bay attached to the boiler building. It will house the turbine generator, which takes steam from the boiler and turns it into electrical power.
From there transformers will send the electricity to the nearby Otter Tail Power Co. substation for transmission. Otter Tail is in the process of expanding the substation to handle 60 megawatts of electricity generated at Spiritwood Station.
Workers were also readying the silo foundations for concrete. Pozarnsky said there are number of locations on the site getting concrete foundations.
“There will be a lot of concrete trucks here next week, so there’s a lot of ground work going on right now,” he said.
One silo is for coal storage. A conveyor belt will feed the silo from the train cars. A second is a limestone silo, which is for air quality.
“The limestone knocks down and collects sulfur dioxide. It helps clean the air,” he said. A bag house next to the limestone silo will further clean the air before it goes out the stack.
When construction on the station is completed, Pozarnsky will switch hats from site manager to plant manager. An engineer, he’s had 25 years experience building power plants and working in them. But for now he’s thinking of the 500 construction workers soon to be on the site and their safety.
“Safety is an issue when you ramp up fast,” he said. “We’ve gone 587,000 man hours without a lost-time accident and we’re going to continue that.”
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com