New GRDA combined-cycle plant starting to take shape

grda turbine elp

Unit 3 is getting closer to making history at the Grand River Energy Center in Chouteau, Oklahoma.

The 495-MW combined cycle generation plant is more than halfway completed. By late winter 2017, the Grand River Dam Authority plans to initiate the first firing of the first Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems’ M501J gas combustion turbine used in the western hemisphere. The exhaust heat from the M501J will generate steam to power another turbine, making the GRDA plant more efficient and environmentally compliant.

“It’s starting to look a lot like the artist rendering,” Jammie Burrow, chief engineer for the energy center’s generation projects, said.

Leaders from project partners GRDA, Black & Veatch and TIC/Kiewit Engineering and Design led a group of editors from Pennwell publications—including POWERGRID International, Electric Light & Power, Utility Products, Penn Energy and Power Engineering—on a rare tour of the ongoing project. They showed off the new home for the combustion gas turbine, heat recovery steam generator, steam turbine generator, compressors and myriad other components of the vast, $400 million new unit.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for Unit 3 were held in January 2015, while mechanical completion is expected by the end of the year. GRDA plans to have Unit 3 operational by June 2017. Project partners include Black & Veatch (owner’s engineers), TIC/Kiewit Engineering and Design (engineering, procurement and construction contractor), Nooter/Eriksen (heat recovery steam generator), Hitachi Power (generator step-up unit) and Enable Midstream Partners (for natural gas pipeline).

The timeline from start to finish might be impressive enough, with about 650 workers on site and work going on 24 hours per day. Yet the Unit 3 crews had to start work while an $86 million environmental upgrade was underway at the coal-fired Unit 2 nearby, forcing them to share operational footprints and juggle scheduling for cranes and other equipment.

“We had to work together while all of this was going on,” said John Johnson, project manager for Black & Veatch.

As if that weren’t complicated enough, the GRDA had just finished its upgrade on Unit 2 when a fire damaged and forced a shutdown in early July. GRDA officials said the fire was started by a lightning strike.

“The Unit 2 event added a number of logistics complicating the project,” Johnson said. “It’s added a level of complexity.”

The Unit 2 repairs are being assessed and could cost between $85 million to $200 million, according to news reports. In the meantime, crews from GRDA, Black & Veatch, TIC/Kiewit and subcontractors continue work on Unit 3 and seem to be on schedule, officials say. Subcontractors include EvapTech (cooling tower), Barnhart, Fleming and A&D Construction, among others.

The changes to the coal-fired units and construction of Unit 3 are planned to help GRDA cut the coal portion of its generation mix from 70 percent to 30 percent eventually. The public power entity plans to discontinue use of coal in Unit 1 during 2017.

Grand River Dam Authority has a variety of generation sources throughout Oklahoma. These include the 36-percent interest in the Redbud combined-cycle plant (operated by partner OG&E) near Oklahoma City, as well as the Pensacola and Kerr dam projects.

Burrow is excited about the progress his company and their partners on Unit 3 have made in less than 24 months. Taking delivery of the M501J turbine and getting it in place was a big deal earlier this year, and installing the HRSG modules was another.

The project makes sense from environmental, financial and geographical points of view, he added. The energy center already had the open space for it, it meets the EPA’s air and emissions standards and proved a relative financial bargain by buying so many major components concurrently.

More than that, this project is personal for Burrow.

“My dad helped build the 1 and 2 coal-fired units,” he said. “I was thrilled to come back here and be a part of such an important project.”

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