Station preparedness is imperative

EnergyLines February 2018

Winter months can be challenging. From frozen pipes to ice dams, home and business owners need to be diligent in maintenance. If not, the damage caused could be financially burdening. The Merom Generating Station is no different.


Preparation is the key to a successful winter. Every September, the winter preparation preventative maintenance program begins. This plan includes a total of 120 work orders, taking 650 hours to complete. The work orders are a combination of issues that have caused problems in the past and simple winter maintenance processes. Once this preventative maintenance list is complete, the Merom Generating Station is ready for winter.


Of course, midwest winters are difficult to predict. With each new notice of severe winter weather, a variety of operational changes are made to ensure the plant can meet market demands during the severity of the weather predicted. Some metrics include:


  • Scheduling of additional personnel in several areas, including control rooms, material handling and all maintenance groups. Twenty-four hour coverage is maintained with all support groups. If issues are addressed quickly, small problems can be prevented from becoming major problems. Severe cold can make small issues become larger issues very quickly as the temperature dips.
  • Additional checks are added for the heating systems to ensure they are operating effectively. Operators take readings on systems, conduct surveys to check for freezing conditions and address any concerns immediately.
  • During severe cold weather, the fuels team is able to monitor coal use and schedule extra trains of coal delivery. Coal received from the mine is sent directly into the plant. This coal has a lower moisture content and higher British Thermal Unit (BTU) than the coal on the storage pile.


MOVING COAL: Material handling equipment moves coal at the generating station. Coal sent directly from mines has lower moisture content and higher British Thermal Unit – providing a steady net heat rate.

Having the extra workforce in place is a great help with winter issues, but the machinery still has to operate at peak performance. Most production systems have heating systems that enable them to operate in very cold temperatures; however, heating systems can fail or be insufficient in the extreme cold temps. When this happens, extraordinary measures must be taken. Some measures used are:


  • Building temporary enclosures and running heat into the enclosure to warm the equipment.
  • Wrapping equipment in heat trace (a heated wire/tape) and insulating it to keep it from freezing.
  • Keeping critical equipment operating around the clock so it does not freeze. Examples include bulldozers, loaders, back hoes and excavators. The coal and limestone belts continuously run to ensure they do not freeze up.


In order to maintain reliability, the station utilizes all employees and contractors during severe weather. “For us to be successful during the winter, it really comes down to a team effort,” said Karl Back, Plant Manager. “Our people are the key to our success, both those at the plant and those in support roles throughout the company.”


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