New generation CHP for Poland

The Elcho project near Katowice is a new generation of CHP project for Poland ” incorporating advanced CFB-based technology for clean, efficient generation, supplied to a type of owner that is new to the local market, an international energy-based investor. The project is now in the home straight, with handover scheduled for August this year.

Peter Herring,
Foster Wheeler Oy, Finland

Looked at very broadly, the Polish energy generation market can be summed up in three words: coal and legacy technology. The country has massive reserves of both bituminous coal and brown coal, and relies on these for electricity and heat generation. Some 95 per cent of generating capacity is coal-fired, and coal is set to remain the dominant fuel for years to come. A large proportion of capacity is also legacy technology-based, with low overall efficiency and poor emissions performance.

The old plant is being replaced
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The pressure is clearly on, particularly with EU membership in the offing, both to repower existing facilities and build new greenfield/brownfield plants. Much has already been achieved. As of spring 2003, Foster Wheeler alone has been contracted to supply close to 2500 MWe of new circulating fluidized bed (CFB) capacity. Some of this is already in operation, at Turàƒ³w, Katowice, and Jaworzno, for example. Some is still under construction, such as the last two units of the six-unit repowering project at Turàƒ³w and the Elcho CHP project. One major groundbreaking project has just been confirmed, by the country’s largest utility, PKE, for a 460 MWe CFB boiler island.

The fact that this latter project will be the world’s first CFB to incorporate once-through supercritical technology, with all the benefits this offers in terms of fuel efficiency, utility scale, and emissions performance ” and will also be the largest CFB of any technology to be built so far ” confirms that, today, Polish-based customers are very much looking to the future and going for best-in-class solutions.

Why EPC?

The g235 million ($256 million) Elcho project near Katowice represents a new generation of CHP project for Poland. Originally developed as a project by the old owner of an existing CHP plant (approx. 100 MWe, 140 MWDH), dating back to 1998 that was once Europe’s largest power plant, the Elcho concept was ultimately developed and contracted in its present form to Foster Wheeler by PSEG Europe Ltd. The project was put out to competitive tender in 1999, with binding proposals requested from five suppliers.

View of the site showing the main boiler house to the right
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An agreement between local majority-owned PSEG subsidiary, EC Chorzàƒ³w Elcho, and Foster Wheeler (Foster Wheeler Energia Oy in Finland and Foster Wheeler Energia Polska in Poland) was signed on January 7, 2000. Delivery of the plant, based on two identical CFBs supplying 226 MW of electricity and up to 500 MW of district heat (DH), was agreed for 36 months following the closing of the financing for the deal and the granting of the notice to proceed (NTP), which was issued in October 2000.

As a slim organization in Europe and a new inward investor in Poland with an eye on developing a ‘bankable’ solution, PSEG’s priorities were focused on signing long-term supply contracts for the plant’s output, securing good fuel availability, and guaranteeing a market for the waste ash ” by going with what was seen as the best available technology, in the shape of CFB, and the most appropriate form of delivery: a turnkey plant.

“CFB was a natural choice for us,” says Patrick Sweeney, PSEG Europe’s project manager for Elcho. “Not only does CFB give us the flexibility we want fuel grade-wise, it also offers the NOx/SOx performance we’re looking for without the need for secondary systems. The balance between electricity and district heat output was also clear for us, given the market for DH in and around Chorzàƒ³w and the potential for selling electricity to the national grid to make everything economically viable.

“We were also very clear on our desire to go for a complete turnkey delivery, rather than a classic three to four multi-contractor scenario, with all the demands that would place on us as a small organization in Europe, the dilution of responsibility involved, and the associated management requirement. The size of the plant we had in mind also lends itself very well to being handled by a single contractor.

“Our judgment was that we would get a much ‘cleaner’ management interface this way, with a single point of contact, supported by our owner’s engineer; we selected Mott MacDonald as the latter. It would also make for a ‘cleaner’ presentation for the prospective financiers for the project.

“We were also looking for a plant that will be very ‘clean’ in terms of its environmental profile, as well as being in a different league from the old plant in respect of efficiency and reliability. That means higher output and lower emissions. As well as a reduced noise footprint, dust-free waste handling, and onward use of all waste byproducts, with fly and bottom ash going to mine restitution and some bottom ash going to the construction industry.”

The right experience

Foster Wheeler made the grade, according to Sweeney, on a combination of factors.

Aerial view of the ash silos
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“Technology, track-record, and price were obviously critical. A major issue alongside these for us was also our local experience and local presence,” he says. “With their Polska subsidiary and their workshop not far away at Sosnowiec, we believed that their local know-how would prove very valuable in implementing the project and making it a success. And that’s how it’s worked out as well.

“In areas such as permitting and handling environment-related issues, things wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly without their knowledge of the local set-up, I believe. The rail-related aspects of the site ” rail will be used to bring in the coal and limestone and take out the ash ” and the work we’ve done on-site and off-site to get the connections and shunting yard upgraded and hooked up, have only borne this out.”

Sweeney also says that the way the EPC contract was drawn up has been a key factor for the success of the project from PSEG’s perspective.

“We aimed for a very clear delineation of responsibilities and set specific documentation requirements for all stages of the project. At the same time, we wanted to give Foster Wheeler enough leeway in making their own equipment and subcontractor choices. We set no limits on the ultimate selection of their suppliers within a framework of proven references, good reputation, and functional and performance suitability for the job. We’ve tried to keep a ‘light, but knowledgeable’ touch on things. This has made things simpler for us as well. It’s been a win/win situation for both of us, as well as the owner’s engineer.

“I think the fact that we’ve been able to build on our early successes and keep two months ahead of the original schedule for virtually the whole duration of the project so far is a tribute to the success of the way we set things up, and to the flexibility with which we’ve seen them through. Luck doesn’t really come into it when you choose the right people, structure things the right way, and run them the right way.”

Turnkey contract

Foster Wheeler is an established turnkey supplier, but the fact that Elcho is the company’s first turnkey power plant project in Poland raised the bar quite a bit for project manager Tore Ahlgren. A veteran of the Polish market ” he was project manager for Foster Wheeler’s Jaworzno boiler island project (2 x 70 MWe) completed in 1999 ” Ahlgren highlights the importance of the decision to split the project into separate ‘disciplines’, each headed up by a discipline engineer.

“We set up disciplines for areas such as civil works, electrification, instrumentation, the boiler island, the turbine plant, water treatment, and so on. We also built up the overall project schedule around the timetables we made for these disciplines, covering key areas such as planning, procurement, manufacturing, erection, and commissioning; and then matrixed everything together.

“Coordinating all this has gone well. Inevitably, there’s always some friction at the interfaces between different areas, but we’ve kept this to a minimum, and the project has gone smoothly. The approval process has also been broken down into specific areas in the same way. Once an area’s been signed off on, we’ve been able to carry on to the next one.”

Another important issue contributing to the success of the project, according to Ahlgren, has been the joint execution model that was adopted, involving a flexible combination of people from Foster Wheeler’s Finnish and Polish organizations. Elcho is the first Foster Wheeler project to be run in this way. He is echoed in this by Jaroslaw Mlonka, director, projects from the company’s Polish organization.

“We really made an effort early on to understand each other’s approach to things, and I think this has paid off as the project has progressed,” says Mlonka. “The Finnish contribution was larger during the engineering and design stage, because our technology know-how is concentrated in Finland. But from manufacturing on ” the furnace and solids separators were manufactured here in Poland at our Sosnowiec shop, for example ” the emphasis has been on the Polish side. The core project organization consists of about 80 people, of whom some 70 per cent are Polish.

“We’ve also used a large number of Polish subcontractors, in areas such as construction, fabrication, and erection. This has seen a positive outlook locally, as the Chorzàƒ³w area and other parts of Upper Silesia suffer from unemployment running at more than 20 per cent. During the final stages of equipment installation and the start of commissioning towards the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, up to 1100 people have been on site, the majority of them local.”

A quiet performer

The Elcho plant has been designed with flexibility in mind. Typical of CFB technology, the plant can be run on a variety of coal grades, while still maintaining its design performance in respect of stack and other emissions. The initial fuel contract has been made with a mine at Tychy some 25 km away, however, for average-grade bituminous coal, with a higher sulphur content than that used at the adjacent old plant, which needs higher-cost, low-sulphur fuel because it lacks desulphurization equipment. Each unit can generate either electricity or just DH, or virtually any variation of the two, as needed to optimize output. During the summer, the units will operate in fully condensing mode.

Interior view from the turbine hall
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Particular attention has been paid to ensuring that noise levels during plant operation will be low, as the nearest local residents live less than 500 m away and the plant is bounded on one side by a graveyard. Judicious equipment placement and the extensive use of sound insulation, cladding, and noise abatement units, such as silencers, will result in a sound level at the site boundary that is below the background noise level.

On track

Pre-engineering to develop the project concept and prepare detailed design work was initiated following the award of the contract in January 2000. This continued through the spring and summer, and by the time the NTP was granted in October site preparation work could be started immediately. The mild winter of 2000/2001 ensured that the majority of the 500 000 m3 of earth that needed to be shifted could be moved then. The timesaving achieved by this early start has been kept throughout the project, which has progressed on an accelerated 34-month schedule as a result. The fact that part of the site has been used throughout this time as a coal storage facility for the old plant has not proved a problem.

All the major project milestones have been kept, beginning with the start of steel erection for Unit 1 in June 2001 and pressure part erection in October the same year, and continuing through hydrostatic testing in April and July 2002 to mechanical completion at the end of October 2002. Unit 2 has followed closely afterwards, at an interval of around two months.

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Operating personnel, drawn from the old plant, came on site for training and commissioning work from September onwards. Coal firing on Unit 1 took place at the beginning of December last year, and steam was fed to the turbine at the beginning of January this year, since when DH has been generated to trim and regulate the boiler, followed by synchronization with the grid. Test runs are scheduled for April, performance guarantee tests in May, and unit substantial completion will be achieved at the end of May. Substantial completion for Unit 2 will be at the end of July.

The last construction work to be done will be the finishing-off of the administration building, the building of the gatehouse, the completion of the rail system, and landscaping and fencing. Contractually, the hand-over is scheduled for the end of October.

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