Florida issues power alert after plant blast

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04/08 13:28 REPEAT-Florida issues power alert after plant blast

(refiling) By Heather McCulloch

NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) - Florida issued a "power alert" following a deadly explosion early Thursday at TECO Energy's power plant near Tampa, Fla.

The blast, which killed one worker and injured 45, shut all six generating units at the coal-fired Gannon power plant, which produces a total of 1,270 megawatts (MW), or roughly enough electricity to power a city of half a million people.

The Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC) issued the alert "due to Tampa Electric Company issuing public appeals for conservation due to the explosion at the Gannon Plant."

Florida issued its first such alert of the year on Tuesday when temperatures shot up to near 90 degrees Fahrenheit (35 C) while several of the state's power plants were shut for spring maintenance.

TECO, the parent company of Tampa Electric Co., said it did not know when the damaged plant would be back in operation.

Spot electricity prices in Florida and in the Southeast were unshaken by the blast, however.

"There are a lot of rumors out there for $100 (per megawatt hour) power, but we're not buying that, and I don't know who is. We could see that for an hour or two this afternoon, but not right now," one Florida-based power trader said.

He said in-state prices for electricity delivered over the next hour were currently running around $30 per MWh, while power scheduled for delivery Friday at the Georgia/Florida border during the 16-hour "peak" daytime schedule was quoted at $35.00 per MWh, compared with $30.00-32.00 per MWh a day ago.

Another Florida trader said deals for hourly power in Florida were reported done as high as $35.00.

He also said that there were hefty offers of $75 and $100 surfacing north of Florida but could not confirm any deals were done at those levels.

When the Gannon station resumes service is a major question facing Florida utilities. A lengthy outage into the hot summer months, when electricity demand for air conditioning reaches its peak, could strain the Florida power grid.

It could also force local utilities to import electricity from out of state, resulting in higher costs that, in turn, would likely be passed down to consumers.

Preliminary reports indicate TECO's blast was caused by a hydrogen leak at a generator that was shut for testing.

Though the TECO plant explosion apparently hit only one unit, all six of the facility's generating units were shut following the mishap.

The fire was brought under control within about 15 minutes of the explosion, rescue workers said.



-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), April 08, 1999


Preliminary reports indicate TECO's blast was caused by a hydrogen leak at a generator that was shut for testing.

What kind of testing was going on? Did the testing have anything to do with the explosion?

-- Nabi Davidson (nabi7@yahoo.com), April 08, 1999.

Nabi, don't know but hopefully we will get some straight answers. here is a link to the original post.

Original Post


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), April 08, 1999.

I currently teach Chemistry. I don't think the leak was Y2K realted. I've read that "hydrogen gas is used to cool the windings of large power turbines," so I think they had an honest-to-God leak. Now...it could have been leaking for a while and no one has noticed it before.

If you have hydrogen gas in an enclosed container of some sort and you suspect a leak you are suppose to clear the area for 1/2 mile. Hydrogen gas is extremely combustive/explosive and a small spark, maybe even from something like a cigarette can set it off.

I guess I would wonder what kind of safety measures they had in effect to monitor for hydrogen gas leaks, and what kind of safety measures to ensure that there would be no sparks or similar things around the equipment...in case of a leak. Using hydrogen gas should be taken extremely seriously.

Sincerely, Apple

-- Apple (villarta@itsnet.com), April 08, 1999.

More bad news for Florida. Keep in mind that this sun-sentinel story was written before todays plant explosion in Tampa.

When the utilities detected the shortages, they bought extra power. They also launched their standard power conservation plans, such as temporarily shutting off power to certain industrial users with generators and certain residences that have agreed to do without power temporarily in times of shortages. Utilities also worked harder to increase production at the plants that were having problems.

Because of this, the state was able to avert blackouts, said Ken Wiley, the reliability council's executive director. But if the situation had worsened, there could have been blackouts and the state would have had to declare what's called a capacity emergency, officials said.

"We came real close yesterday to rolling blackouts," said Bob Trapp, assistant director of the Electric and Gas Division at the Public Service Commission, the state's utility regulatory agency. "Fortunately, everything held together."

Trapp said the state might not be as fortunate this summer, however, if the hot weather continues. The state has been allowing its generating reserves to fall below historic levels, leaving less of a cushion in times of hot weather or unforeseen problems with the plants.

"If we have a large number of unplanned outages during high-temperature periods, we could be in trouble," he said. "I'd feel more comfortable if we were going to have a mild summer."

-- Online2Much (ready_for_y2k@mindspring.com), April 08, 1999.

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