From theory to practice – Seeing project execution up close

After 6 months in Sweden, my next adventure took me to Sauda and Dalen in southern Norway where I have worked with large refurbishment projects on some of Statkraft’s largest power plants.

When working with projects there is a lot of pre-planning that is related to profitability, asset condition, risk of failure, meetings, etc. It can take up to several years between the moment a project is first discussed and the moment the work has been completed; in the power industry this process can span across 5-10 years. Personally, I think that one of the coolest parts of a project is when one gets to see the results; for example seeing windmills finally in operation or being able to produce electricity from a new hydropower station. Working with the project execution phase is what I have been able to do in this rotation.

From theory to practice

After spending a little over a year in Statkraft I have started realising how much I have learned over the last 12 months and how much more there is to learn. In this rotation I have had the chance to see all the planning work I have done in previous rotations being transformed from theory to practice.

I have primarily been working with three projects during my stay in region South Norway; The replacement of the turbine regulators in Kvilldal, the refurbishment of Svartavaten dam and the full refurbishment of Lio Power Plant. I have been attending building meetings, working on dismantling and installing new equipment, attending factory acceptance tests and have also visited newly finished projects to learn from their successes and failures. It is difficult to sum up everything a blog post, but I have tried to document some of my experiences.

Dismantling and Installing

Project execution is all about replacing or refurbishing worn out equipment with new parts. For example, in Kvilldal the project scope was to replace the faulty turbine regulators, which control the water inflow into the turbine, with new once. Since all four units in Kvilldal needed to be replaced, the project lasted several months, and the project team worked on one unit at the time.

Installation of the new turbine regulator unit 3 in Kvilldal.
Inspection of the unit 3 ball valve in Kvilldal.

At the Lio powerplant most equipments are worn out and can be dated back to the commissioning of the plant in the 1969. The current project scope is to refurbish all main components, from the water way to the control system. During my time at Lio I was able to see several dismantling of old equipment, and learned about the difficulties of logistic when working within a mountain tunnel. PS: The project was not yet finished when I moved to Oslo for my last rotation.

Dismantling of turbine in Lio powerplant.

 

Performing Factory Acceptance Tests

From the time we order a product to the point it is delivered, it can take up to 6-18 months. This is  mainly due to transport, availability, capacity in the supplier market  and production time. It is therefore really important that the components we order are according to the project specification. To control that the new equipment is a perfect fit, it is expected to perform a Factory Acceptance Test (short FAT).

I was invited to participate in two FATs during my stay in region South Norway,  one FAT for a new transformer and another for a new switch board. With a background in Power Engineering, it was really interesting seeing such tests in real life. The aim of these tests is to ensure that the new equipment is functioning within the international standards (mostly IEE for electrical equipment) and national laws. Read more at: https://www.standard.no/.

Picture taken during FAT of Switch board.

Visiting power plant sites

The fact that hydro power plants are usually located a long way from major cities is no secret. The secret is that they are usually close to beautiful nature and provide great new places to visit if you seek new adventures. One of the finished projects I got to visit was located in Tyssedal close to Trolltunga (which many of you might have heard of). To be able to visit the water way, we had to take a helicopter and pass by Trolltunga. The aim of this visit was to ensure that the newly installed spillway gate  was fully functioning before the winter season.

Breiavatn gate.

Living in Sweden, the one thing I missed the most was the Norwegian mountains. Well, back in western Norway, most of my spare time was used hiking as this photo confirms:

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