ST. LOUISAmerenUE recently announced that damage assessments are complete, and recovery work continues unabated, following the Aug. 10 fire at AmerenUE’s Venice Plant. Cost estimates to rebuild the plant are not final. Company officials reported to the financial community that at this time, Ameren does not expect the fire to have a significant impact on the corporation’s financial results.
“We met this adversity head on,” says Chuck Naslund, AmerenUE vice president-generation projects. “We are using this as an opportunity to reassess the plant’s needs and to provide a carefully planned return to service.”
Jack Scott, Venice Plant manager, said the assessment shows that damage to the generation side of the plant appears to be limited to a single turbine-generator and related electrical system components and controls. In addition, the fire resulted in the destruction of four large transformers-each the size of a large trailer. These units change the voltage (akin to pressure) of electricity flowing out of a generating plant.
“On the positive side, it appears that two turbine-generators (with approximately 200 MW of capacity) rolled to a stop without damage,” Scott said. “Three other turbine-generator units should be in good condition, as well. However, the substation (where voltage of electricity is regulated and power switched from one line to another) will require modification before the units can operate.”
Scott added that plant personnel are checking and cleaning all electrical circuits that are associated with these units. “We are optimistic that two of the plant’s six generating units will be capable of operating by early next week. Power has been restored to the offices, water treatment plant, caisson 2, and the fourth section of the plant. In addition, major plant clean-up is underway,” he said.
Venice plant employees continue to report according to scheduled shifts. “The employees are invaluable as we perform clean-up, assess damage and begin operating again,” Scott said. “Our operators did a tremendous job saving the equipment in this plant during the emergency. Their skill made the difference during emergency shut down by limiting the damage to operating equipment that was not involved in the fire emergency. “The plant has had great support from everyone throughout the company.”
All 24 employees in the plant when the fire erupted on Aug. 10 escaped without serious injury. The blaze started when a line supplying hydraulic oil to the plant’s unit 1 turbine ruptured at around 5:55 p.m. The oil ignited, and fire spread to the electrical system. Firefighters contained the blaze by early evening, but two fires in isolated areas burned until the early hours of Friday morning.
Ameren Corp. Chairman Chuck Mueller publicly praised the heroism of the Venice crews during a visit to the plant and commended the fire, police and emergency personnel who raced to the scene from surrounding counties and cities.
Because of the fire’s impact on power supplied to Venice Substation, more than 8,000 AmerenUE customers lost power for a few hours; however, AmerenUE restored power to most of the customers by 11 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 10. Underground crews worked through the night to restore power to the remaining customers-700 downtown St. Louis businesses and residents served by Cole Substation. Power was restored to those customers at around 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 11.