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More power due back online at Colorado coal-fired power plant

World Coal,

The Martin Drake coal-fired power plant in Colorado is making headway in bringing electricity back to the grid, after a fire caused the plant to shut down operations on 5 May.

Plant operator, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), said that as of 28 July, a new bearing for Unit 7 – the largest generating unit at the plan – had arrived and the unit’s repaired steam turbine rotor was placed into the shell. When Unit 7 returns to service, 80% of the plant’s electricity production capacity will be back online.

A fire heavily damaged Unit 5 at the plant in May, while units 6 and 7 were also damaged. Unit 6 came back online in June, while Unit 5 is not expected to return to operations until 2015.

According to the Colorado Springs fire department, human error caused free-flowing lubricating oil to come into contact with high temperature steam pipes; resulting in a flash fire.

The fire department said: "The initial phase of the investigation has determined the fire to be accidental as a result of free flowing lubricating oil coming in contact with high temperature steam pipes which resulted in the flash fire. The fire was fed by the free flowing lubricating oil which increased the fire’s size and severity until fire department crews arrived and were able to suppress the fire. The investigation will be ongoing and may take several weeks to determine all the factors surrounding the cause of the fire. More information will be provided once the investigation is complete."

In a statement from CSU, the company said workers had “been working tirelessly to restore the plant and resume power generation in the most safe, expedient and cost-effective manner possible”.

The company added that the energy produced at the power plant was vital in sustaining “quality of life and economic development” in the local communities.

Fire summary

According to CSU, the fire at the Martin Drake power plant began at approximately 9:40 am and was declared under control at 12:42 pm. There were no major injuries following a safe evacuation of all employees.

Adapted from press release by Sam Dodson

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