June 4, 2009

GRE power goes out so water lines can go in

By Brenda L. Shelkey

For the second time in the history of the Great River Energy plant in central McLean County, the lights have gone out at both units at the plant. Typically, the two units are set to have an outage in either the spring or fall when electricity is under less demand and only every three years. The years are on an alternating schedule, with Unit 1 set for its next maintenance outage in 2011, and Unit 2 set for its outage in 2010. Lyndon Anderson, the North Dakota Communications Supervisor for GRE explained that this 2009 outage is on an off-year and was put into effect for a number of reasons. The work that needed to be done was critical to both units It means lots of electricity off the market with both units shut down for maintenance. He said, "We had concerns about the integrity of the pipe line that runs between the plant and the three cooling towers. We wanted to replace it before it breaks down." The pipeline is a circulating water line that is a heat transfer line from the plant to the cooling towers, where a large fan circulates the water to cool it, then the line moves water to the holding ponds where it cools some more. Once cool, the water is pulled back into the plant and continues to loop through the process over and over again. Replacing this pipeline is the primary reason for the outage, although it isn’t the only reason. A lot of pre-work was done during the fall and winter so that once the outage was in effect, the work could be completed as efficiently as possible. Currently, during the outage, contractors are doing the tie-in work, replacing and connecting the pipeline between the plant and the cooling towers and the return-line to the plant.

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