"In this anti-coal environment, we have a positive feeling on a job where we're building a coal-fired boiler. That's not something that's happening anymore." — BM/ST Tracey Eixenberger
Project will heat, power University of Alaska, Fairbanks
THIRTY-TWO MEMBERS of Local 502 (Tacoma, Washington), along with a few travelers, are constructing the only new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Most of the other building trades from Alaska are also onsite, with Boilermakers logging the most man-hours and also running the project. L-502's Blaine Roulst works as the general superintendent.
The combined heat and power plant will have a circulating fluidized bed boiler, which will burn coal to generate up to 17 megawatts of power and enough steam to heat the campus independent of city utilities. A dedicated heat source will help ensure the campus does not freeze up during power outages that might occur with offsite power generation. The new $245 million project is scheduled to come online in late 2018 and will replace the old facility that went into service in 1964.
The contractor, Haskell-Davis, is a joint venture between the Haskell Corp. of Bellingham, Washington, and Davis Constructors & Engineers Inc. of Anchorage, Alaska. One of the reasons the university chose Haskell-Davis was their guarantee that work would continue throughout the winter, said Tracey Eixenberger, Local 502 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer, noting the weather has been the biggest challenge on the job site to date. Even with the frigid weather, the crew is outside working until it gets around 40 below, when the machinery starts having trouble.
"It was quite an adjustment getting used to the cold weather, but now when it's 10 degrees, it feels great, which is a strange thing to say," said Local 502's August Morris.
One of the best aspects of the job is that members have 18 months of steady work. "They have a long-term job," said Eixenberger. "Things have been a little depressed because of the economy. A lot of work that traditionally happens every year hasn't been happening."
He said the project achieved a milestone in October by passing the hydrostatic test (which must be done to ensure the steam boiler is free from leakage before start up). In addition, the project is on time, and even a bit ahead of schedule. He said although the job is taking the skilled crew from Alaska and Washington away from home for over a year, absenteeism hasn't been high, and the project has a good safety record, with no major injuries.
"It's been very successful," said Eixenberger. "In this anti-coal environment, we have a positive feeling on a job where we're building a coal-fired boiler. That's not something that's happening anymore."