Dirt... and Fuel Gas
As background, one critical system in a power plant is fuel gas. Typically, every system is cleaned to a condition that is nearly spotless. This is especially true of fuel gas because it feeds the turbines and duct burners. EPR evaluated a plant that was physically very large. The fuel gas header was 1.5+ miles long, inside the plant downstream of the supplier custody-filters. The system changed elevations, had countless fittings, and pipe size changes. Clearly, this is a difficult system configuration to clean well for an inexperienced crew.
Prior to EPR being involved, roughly 50 warranty claims were raised against the EPC contractor that enumerated roughly 300+ failures of valves, flame scanners, regulators, valves, and really anything in the system with a seat or rubber O-ring. The EPC contractor refused to address the issue on-the-whole with a proper RCA (root-cause analysis), instead dealing with each item as if unrelated.
The attached photographs tell the story. This system is so full of dirt and contamination that is simply is not defensible to indicate proper, or perhaps... Read more
No Savings. Contractor went through "motions" of cleaning system, just didn't!
Just in terms of Owner down-time for needless repairs this is millions of $'s. Parts, labor, etc...
Generator Circuit Breaker (Explosion)
The more interesting findings during our assessments are related to poor commissioning practices. These items tend to be more complex than construction defects and typically more serious from a safety, equipment protection, and reliability perspective of the asset.
One case involved an "explosion" of a generator circuit breaker. The event took place about one year after COD, destroyed the GCB and damaged an F-class turbine generator (both stator and rotor).
The Event: During a unit start the operator was at the elevated GCB panel. The generator field breaker was closed, so the generator exciter was energized. The operator inadvertently pushed the earthing switch button which activated. The earthing switches are NOT designed to be activated when the generator/exciter is energized. The switch exploded (vaporized) with the GCB housing being damaged and opened like a tin can. The operator was shielded from bolts and other shrapnel, but luckily did not fall from the platform.
Background: The GCB vendor provides a set of dry contacts on each earthing... Read more
Possibly only a time savings, but doubtful.
Unit was out of service for 6 months. New breaker, rewound stator and rotor, recommissioing of unit... All-in costs between contractor, owner, an insurance company was about $8mm.
Contractors sometimes take an extraordinary short-term view of their obligations.
At one plant EPR evaluated the owner's engineer had agreed to waive the contract requirement that all embeds were to be hot dip galvanized. The back-story is that the contractor managed to get late on anchor bolt delivery and wanted to skip the delay associated with galvanizing. It is also worth noting that this location was in a polluted location, in a hot humid region, on the sea. This simply means corrosion concerns are very serious.
The photographs were taken before the first unit even reached first fire. Already, the anchor bolts exhibit heavy corrosion and loss of substrate material at the threads.
Within a couple years of COD, it is conservative to expect the anchor bolts to be essentially non-existent. It's not clear how the foundations and structure will resist uplift forces without compromise and risk to the structure.
The "fix" at that time was to add galvanized nuts on top of the previously un-galvanized nuts. Sort of...
Non-Critical Path time was saved. Minimal cost.
Repair is difficult. Cost of structural failure could be high if a material uplift condition occurs.
Most structural designers call for an inch or two of no-shrink grout below the baseplates of structural columns. While anchor bolts are installed with nuts to jack and plumb a column, the load is intended to be carried largely by the grout. This means that it needs to be installed on a prepared surface, mixed correctly, and placed with good workmanship to the approximate depth required.
In almost every developing country where EPR has inspected plants, the same recurring problems are visible. Typically, the workman are unaware of the purpose for the grout and methods required to create an acceptable final product.
In the photos, at least three major flaws are shown. First, the foundation surface was not bushed prior to setting the column and intead some half-effort to rough around the joint is attempted. Second, there is insufficient space to apply grout below the baseplate. Third, the grout is poured around the joint, as opposed to being packed under the baseplate. It is clear the workman think grout is simply a "dressing" rather than a purposeful componenet of the structural system.... Read more
Most of the time, the condition is not repairable. Owner has to accept the defect.
Settle for More!
In nearly every developing country location, plants evaluated by EPR have exhibited very poor performance of soil compaction, especially related to area paving.
At one facility, a more extensive review was conducted because significant settling was evident in dozens of areas. In the first photo, not only is the area paving soil consolidating, so is the soil below the pipe support foundation, which rendered the support ineffectual. Some of the other pictures show images taken from a borescope beneath a slab where the soil had consolidated in the 12 months after the slab was poured. The findings included exposed rebar, construction debris, form work, voids, unconsolidated concrete, and improper slab thickness/finish. In all, technically nothing about the installation was acceptable.
In the last photo, a small crew can be observed preparing soil for finish grade. It exhibits pretty well the nature of the problem. Simply, the crew did not have the tools or knowledge to perform the work correctly. QC was also not likely to be involved to verify soil density. However, it's a safe bet the QC... Read more
Owner will live with poor conditions and possible operator injury. Ongoing O&M cost.