It's the first steam at Basin Electric's first combined cycle power plant. Now this was just after the first fire in the gas turbine. We'll show you what it took to hit two big milestones in a day at Deer Creek Station.
It's the first in two long days of commands.
"Ok." (Doug pushes button, then noise of fans)
Basin Electric's Doug Rothe just purposely tripped the Deer Creek Station gas turbine. It's part of the testing General Electric is doing on the gas turbine.
"Did we stop it?" "Yeah, we stopped it. I think, let me check on that, I think we might be okay."
In the control room, it happens again...
"Ok, you can hit it anytime." (Gavin): "Ok, ready." (sound of fans, then stops) "She tripped."
"It got up to 840." "And then it came back down. It tripped? Must've tripped." "Tripped on something."
The plant trips over and over. And it's okay.
"Fault. Something tripped."
(Gavin McCollam): "You just have to try to keep in perspective. It's gonna work. It's not NOT gonna happen."
Gavin McCollam is the Deer Creek Station project manager. The crew has been through a full day of final false fire trip testing of the plant, then allowing the natural gas to vent off, to try again.
Once the false fire is successful, everybody on site gets ready for first fire -- a major milestone for a power plant. Everyone comes to a meeting led by Bluewater Energy Solutions, the commissioning contractor.
(Charlie Look): "3:30 meeting is just to get everybody together, make sure everything's all checked off, any questions, I'll get into that. First, we wanna go ahead and talk safety, and Chuck's gonna go ahead and give us a little briefing on that."
"We'll put danger tape on the operating deck, around the steam pipe. If there's somewhere else you can think of where we need danger tape, go ahead and take the initiative and get it up."
(Charlie Look): "One of the most important things is for people to talk to each other. A lot of times if someone sees something, they consider it's not their problem. One of the major problems you do have is just the communication."
McCollam gets the first fire process started.
"Five seconds to first fire." (Gavin): "Ready, here we go."
(Gavin): "It's gonna stay here at 840 for 15 minutes, then it's gonna drop down to 400."
McCollam heads out to be near the turbine. Rothe stays in the control room to watch the monitor.
"Oh, there we go! Valves coming on. Fire. We've got it. Flame on."
Once there's fire, everybody goes outside to see the first exhaust come out of the stack.
(Doug Rothe): "It's a long process but you can see all the interest out there when everybody's looking at the stack and everything. Seeing the first vapor and steam come out of the stack is kind of meaningful. Makes it all worthwhile."
(Gavin McCollam): "I could feel my, I could feel tense, like, more than I thought I was. It's pretty exciting feeling."
(Charlie Look): "So, everybody tries their best, and when they get the first fire, they're really happy
Rothe points out, in the plant, you can smell insulation, oils and metals heated up for the first time. Like starting the furnace in your home.
(Gavin McCollam): "For so long, for two years now on this project, it's just been quiet. Other than trucks or welders or jackhammers or construction equipment. So you get used to that silence, kinda. But then to walk out when the machine is spinning and now it's a big sound and, oh yeah, this is what a plant sounds like."
(Doug Rothe): "Sometimes it's frustrating when things aren't working right, but when it does come together and it's finally achieved, it's satisfying. Used to think, when you achieved a start up milestone, it's kinda almost like a bubble being burst, and it's like, oh, okay, we did that. What's next?"
(Sound): steam outside
The steam blows start up right away. They take about one week. Steam will get forced through five paths to make sure they're clear of debris, before steam is allowed to the steam turbine. A polished steel target is inserted into the steam path. They blow steam through. Then, they take the target out to see how many dings are on it. There needs to be 10 dings or fewer, and none above a certain size.
Two major milestones in one day for Basin Electric's first combined cycle plant.
For Rothe, he's been involved in starting up five units before today, all coal. This is his first natural gas plant.
(Doug Rothe): "It's a different animal. Nice to go through the learning curve again on something."