When you’re maintaining a critical and complex piece of machinery like a 120 MW gas fired peaking power station, ideally you want the people who built the machinery on site to advise and assist. But what happens when circumstances mean that those experts aren’t available to you?

As we transition into a new energy future, the focus is firmly on flexible generation. The 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has encouraged (or made necessary) flexibility beyond our energy generation – particularly at Perth Energy’s Kwinana Swift Power Station in Western Australia.

Finding flexible solutions

The Kwinana Swift Power Station is a 120 MW peaking station located 40km south of Perth.  It consists of two Pratt & Whitney SwiftPacs with a nameplate capacity of 60 MW each. The plant features four 30MW gas turbines connected to two common generators. The units can reach full load from standstill within five minutes of commencing operations.

An issue with a bearing seal in one of Kwinana Swift’s gas generators necessitated the delicate removal of a gas generator for maintenance, Perth Energy Generation Lead Marc Hettler explained.

‘The initial plan was to fly over a technical advisor from our original equipment manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney Power Systems,’ Marc said.

However, the COVID-19 travel restrictions interfered, meaning that we needed to change our approach. 

‘Firstly, the plan was for the technical advisor to fly over from China. Then when coronavirus took hold there, we moved to a technical advisor coming from Europe. When the virus then started to appear in Europe, we finally settled on a technical advisor coming from America’.

‘Unfortunately for us, this was exactly the geographical sequence the coronavirus spread through, and subsequently no technical advisors were now able to visit Kwinana.’ 

Given these travel restrictions, we assessed the situation and made the decision to perform the engine lift by using internal technical specialists and detailed procedures provided by Pratt & Whitney. The mechanical works were led by Senior Operator Maintenance Technician, Turbine Specialist, Kevin Forth and the electrical by Senior Operator Maintenance Technician, Electrical, Daniel Bailey. 

‘The lift took place over a period of four days. The absolute key focus areas for the team was on creating a safe working environment and implementing safe processes for the engine lift,’ said Marc.

‘To ensure safe access to the roof of the casing, a scaffold was erected for the lift and a crane with sufficient reach was hired to be able to reach the engine from the road where there was stable ground’.

‘We also had to consider the ongoing threat of coronavirus, beyond the trouble it had already given us. We split the crew into two teams to continue operation of the plant in the incidence of a future coronavirus diagnosis’.

‘The lift was a great example of the team working better together in order to safely and clinically remove the engine. Everything went exactly as we had assessed it would and the whole team should be very proud of themselves.’

The engine has been shipped to the US for repairs and is due to return to Kwinana at the end of July. 

In September 2019, AGL acquired Perth Energy from Infratil. Perth Energy is an integrated energy company comprising the 120 MW Kwinana Swift Power Station and, at the time of acquisition, 1,400 GWh of electricity sales and an emerging gas retail business. This built on AGL's entry to the WA energy market in July 2017. The acquisition announcement can be found here, while more information about the business can be found here.