Turbine fire strikes Glenarm power plant in Pasadena

A fire broke out at about 10:18 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16, inside a turbine containment unit at Pasadena’s Glenarm Power Plant.  Cause of the fire remains under investigation, but initial indications are that a turbine blade in the “GT-2” power turbine broke loose, causing equipment damage and the fire.  No injuries were reported and no interruption of service occurred to customers of the Pasadena Water and Power Department (PWP).

Approximately 27 firefighters from the Pasadena, South Pasadena and Alhambra fire departments responded.  Two operators were in the GT-2 Control Room adjacent to the turbine room when the equipment failure and fire occurred.  A fire suppression system activated automatically and plant operators immediately powered down the unit.  Firefighters were on scene for about two hours. 

With GT-2 now out of service and GT-1 and GT-3 both offline for repairs, Pasadena’s local power plant is currently operating with just one power generating unit, GT-4, a natural gas-fired system than can produce at peak about 45 megawatts of power.  PWP is urging all Pasadena residents and businesses to be extra vigilant in their energy conservation during this week’s hot weather, especially between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The power plant does have a fifth unit, B-3, which uses steam technology and cannot be brought online in time to help augment power needs due to the heat wave.

“Since the generation output from our local power plant is limited at this time, PWP will have to rely more heavily on electricity from external supplies that come through our cross-town transmission lines,” PWP General Manager Phyllis Currie said.  “If there is too much demand for electricity during this heat wave, our city’s electric system could overload.”

Currie cautioned that any additional local generation or transmission equipment failures could force PWP to initiate local rolling blackouts with no advance warning.  These would likely have the greatest impact on the west side of the City, she said.

PWP advises all customers to run air conditioners at no less than 78 degrees, close curtains and blinds to keep out direct heat from the Sun and unplug all unnecessary electronics and appliances.

The GT-2 power generating unit, in operation since 1975, uses a Pratt & Whitney jet engine-powered turbine to turn a generator, producing up to 22 megawatts of electricity.  For safety and noise mitigation, the entire GT-2 system is housed within a metal containment unit.  The fire occurred inside the metal containment unit.  After its twin generating unit—GT-1—was damaged on May 4, 2010, a safety assessment of GT-2 was performed by a power turbine consulting firm.  GT-1 is currently under repair, at a cost of approximately $15 million that is being covered by insurance.

Installation of a new, state-of-the-art generating unit, GT-5, is included in the Pasadena Power Plant Repowering project.  The new unit would replace the B-3 unit, which dates from the 1960s.  PWP anticipates publishing the Draft Environmental Impact Report on that project in late November.

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