Yards Creek Prepares for Fall Outage
September 16, 2018 -- Employees who are part of the Intake Gate project team at FirstEnergy’s Yards Creek Generating Station, near Blairstown, N.J., are preparing for their plant’s planned outage, scheduled for early fall.
The outage will tackle the first of a two-phase effort designed to provide the pumped-storage hydroelectric plant a way to isolate its upper reservoir from its penstock, a large 19-foot diameter pipe that connects the station’s source water to the turbine. Yards Creek’s upper reservoir holds about 1.5 billion gallons of water.
“The penstock is an exposed pipe,” said Yards Creek Manager Tim Hicks. “We perform regular maintenance and compliance inspections on it, but if the penstock were to leak when the upper reservoir was full, we have no way to stop the flow of water presently.”
That’s where the critical path of the outage comes in.
“We’ll be installing anchors to reinforce the intake structure,” Tim explained. “The current configuration only allows 31 feet of water to accumulate in the reservoir. The new, post-outage configuration will allow 92 feet, a much bigger margin, which requires additional reinforcements.”
Phase one of the project, to be completed this fall and winter, involves building the base of the reservoir structure up 47 feet – high enough to allow workers to install a bulkhead. Work scheduled for phase two, slated to begin next year, includes building the structure base up an additional 60 feet and installing gates inside the structure to seal off water in the reservoir from the penstock.
The work, to be completed by construction firm Mascaro, presents certain challenges, but the station has readiness plans in place to protect the safety and environmental health of everyone onsite. The project team recently created a Construction Emergency Action Plan and is reviewing job-specific safety plans for different outage tasks with its contractors.
“We’re going to train and conduct a safety drill covering the Emergency Action Plan procedures to ensure all parties involved in the outage understand it,” said Tim. “From a safety perspective, care of water poses the largest risk. We will have a huge reservoir that’s empty, and anytime it rains the water will funnel directly to the area where crews are working. To manage the rainwater, a cofferdam will be installed that can retain water up to a certain level while allowing releases through two 24-inch pipes.”
Maintaining proper ventilation also is a top priority, as the outage requires contractors to work in a confined space while operating diesel-powered equipment. Environmental precautions will be taken to prevent diesel fuel from spilling onsite.
“There’s a fair amount of demolition needed to remove the existing concrete structure, requiring a lot of cutting work. We’ll be training crews to take precautions to avoid eye injuries and pinching injuries,” added Tim. “We also have a Reptile and Amphibian Protection Plan we’ve just revised with the help of ECSi, an environmental contract firm of biologists, wetland scientists and reptile/amphibian specialists that will be monitoring the outage work to keep our wildlife and workers safe.”
This article was written for a FirstEnergy employee publication
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