J.M. Shafer Station employees tackle one-week outage

Tri-State’s 272-megawatt J.M. Shafer Station (Fort Lupton, Colo.) has been a very busy place as plant employees tackled a one-week outage that wrapped up recently.

Plant manager Richard Rhoads explains operations at the 272-megawatt facility.

Plant manager Richard Rhoads explains operations at the 272-megawatt facility.

Maintenance activities, which are largely conducted by the plant’s 18 employees, included baroscopic inspections of turbine components, cleaning heat exchanger tubes in the main condenser, installing a variable-speed drive pump in the water quality purification plant to improve performance and efficiency, replacing air filter cartridges on the five gas turbine generators, structural maintenance on the cooling towers and a long list of other activities.

J.M. Shafer Station is classified as intermediate generation among the association’s power production fleet. Unlike Tri-State’s larger baseload units, such as Craig and Escalante stations, which are designed to operate continuously for long periods of time, this natural gas-fired plant is designed to rapidly ramp up and down to meet changing demand requirements.

J.M. Shafer Station also differs from Tri-State’s simple-cycle combustion turbine units such as Limon and Knutson stations, which are primarily used for peaking generation during high demand periods or for emergency backup generation in the event of an unplanned outage or other unusual system events.

Paul Downs cleans heat exchanger tubes on the plant’s main condenser.

Paul Downs cleans heat exchanger tubes on the plant’s main condenser.

J.M. Shafer Station, like the association’s Rifle Station in southwestern Colorado, is referred to as a combined cycle generating facility. This means that the station’s five air-derivative gas generators are coupled to heat-recovery boilers that transfer waste heat to drive two steam turbines.

This configuration is significantly more efficient and economical than a simple-cycle combustion turbine. “That, coupled with a recent trend of lower prices for natural gas, has made this plant a valuable asset in Tri-State’s generation portfolio,” explained Richard Rhoads, plant manager.

Tri-State is not the only customer for the power produced at J.M. Shafer Station. Xcel Energy has a power purchase agreement for 122 megawatts of capacity from the plant through 2019.

Ray Perry manages the plant’s lock-out/tag-out program during the outage.

Ray Perry manages the plant’s lock-out/tag-out program during the outage.

“They use our generation primarily to ‘backstop’ their wind power,” explained Rhoads. “When the wind stops blowing, they need to have a certain amount of spinning generation ready to fill that gap — and that’s what they use us for,” he said.

“As Tri-State’s wind portfolio continues to grow, it is likely that Tri-State will use us in the same way — to follow the fluctuations of wind. That’s one of the hidden costs of wind generation,” Rhoads added.

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