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Retrofitting the Ray D. Nixon Power Plant to Improve Emissions

Colorado Springs Utilities Fountain, Colorado, USA
Careful planning and smart project management were key in delivering the balance-of-plant for a new air emissions control system for Colorado Springs Utilities. 

Colorado Springs Utilities has served the Pikes Peak region since 1924. Today, the municipal utility provides electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater services to approx­i­mately 700,000 customers in the surrounding metro­pol­i­tan area—the state’s second most populated region behind Denver. In 2015, the utility began a project at one of its facilities, the Ray D. Nixon Power Plant in Fountain, Colorado, to responsibly and cost-effectively control air emissions in support of the environment and ratepayers.

megawatt coal-fired power plant
air emission plant upgrades
year design-build project schedule

Responding to more stringent sulfur dioxide (SO2) limits imposed by the Envi­ron­men­tal Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Springs Utilities elected to install a flue gas desul­fu­r­iza­tion system (FGD) system at the 225-megawatt coal-fired plant to remove SO2 and a dry sorbent system to capture mercury from its waste gas stream. The utility hired the consortium of CDM Smith and Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) to deliver the $60 million upgrades to the plant within a 2-year window.

According to project manager William Sage, PE, Principal, CDM Smith’s design-build team was tasked with providing the balance-of-plant to support the instal­la­tion of B&W’s proprietary spray dryer absorber technology, the FGD system and a powder-activated carbon system to reduce mercury emissions. “Our team was responsible for engineering, procuring and construct­ing components of the project that support the FGD system and peripheral equipment,” he said. “That included performing utility inves­ti­ga­tions and instal­la­tions, building foundations, supplying equipment, design and supply of process piping systems and all structural steel, design and instal­la­tion off all power distri­b­u­tion and control wiring, and coor­di­nat­ing electric service during construc­tion.”

At the end of the day, the client is happy, and the project was on time and under budget. That's a testament to the careful planning and management of the project team.
William Sage, PE, Principal, Project Manager

According to Sage, one of the most challenging aspects of the project was retro­fitting the new technology and support systems into the existing plant layout. “The team had to work closely together to strate­gi­cally place the equipment in areas where it would have minimal impact on the site,” he said. “From a design perspective, we found effi­cien­cies by using a 3D model to coordinate key items between the two parties.”

In one case, Sage explained that onsite congestion made it difficult to locate air compressors and water recir­cu­la­tion pumps, which normally would be housed in an auxiliary building. Without the space to build one, the team determined it could place the compressors and pumps within the absorber enclosure, under the conical-shaped lower portion that collects solids. This excess space under the absorber vessel had histor­i­cally been left unused.

Solutions like this one also helped the team keep costs down—another challenge posed by the client. “It was important to them that we deliver the project econom­i­cally, as well as efficiently,” said Sage. Applying their ingenuity throughout the project, the team delivered their scope of work under the contracted price, resulting in shared savings with the client.

Now installed, the new FGD system has brought the plant into compliance and underscored Colorado Springs Utilities’ commitment to providing power to its customers responsibly. “At the end of the day,” said Sage, “the client is happy, and the project was on time and under budget. That’s a testament to the careful planning and management of the project team.”

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