L-5 shop builds modular condensers for NYC’s Astoria plant

Members from L-5 zone 197 assemble 280-ton, air-cooled HRSG condenser modules at a shop in Albany, N.Y.

Lodge wins work previously done nonunion

BOILERMAKERS ACCUSTOMED to building HRSG condensers in the field are seeing much of that work lost to modular construction performed by nonunion labor. But members of Local 5 Zone 197 (Albany, N.Y.) recently demonstrated that they are perfectly capable of assembling condensers offsite for transport to the project site.

Over an 18-month period, 70 Boilermakers employed by Megrant Corp. built 24 280-ton, air-cooled condenser modules for the Astoria Energy project in New York City, near La Guardia Airport. The shop crews worked shifts of six 10s and brought the project in ahead of schedule, on budget, and without a single lost-time injury.

Located in the Borough of Queens, the Astoria Energy project is a combined-cycle facility comprised of two power blocks. Each power block includes two gas-fired combustion turbines, a steam turbine, and two HRSGs (heat recovery system generators), with a total output of approximately 550 megawatts. The first power block became operational in 2005; the second is expected to come on line in 2011. The Astoria project has been heralded as one of the cleanest and most efficient energy plants in the nation.

L-5 BM-ST Tom Klein said condenser work in the first phase was performed nonunion at a facility in Virginia, but in phase II, Boilermaker signatory contractor Megrant Corp. won the bid. “With the help of [International Vice President] Sean Murphy, [Assistant Director for Construction Sector Operations] John Fultz, and [IR] Tony Smarra, we negotiated a project labor agreement with Megrant so 100 percent of the condenser work would be done by Boilermakers,” Klein said.

The condensers were assembled at Megrant’s shop in Albany, N.Y., along the Hudson River, with components fabricated by GEA Power Cooling Inc. Once assembled, the modules were rolled onto barges, which traveled about 150 miles down the Hudson, past the Statue of Liberty, and up the East River to the Astoria project site. The shop work also involved assembling 2,000 feet of 10- and 25-ft.-dia. duct, including elbows, fittings, and valves.

Megrant President Sam Mirian said assembly of the air-cooled condensers was initially slated to go to a Mexican company and that all other major systems for the Astoria Energy project were built offshore. He said the biggest challenge in building the condensers was making sure everyone worked safely on a project near water that also required working at heights and involved extensive rigging and welding.

Employees came in from all over the country, and many had never worked as a union Boilermaker. After joining Local 5, the new hands received extensive safety and equipment training from L-5 supervisors.

Mirian said the crews performed superbly. “There were zero failures on the welds, and we had no mechanical failures of any kind. Quality control was excellent. Productivity was phenomenal.”

Klein said he was proud of the work performed by Local 5 members on the Astoria Energy project, and pleased to recover some of the work that is typically lost to nonunion workers when modular construction methods are used.

As the condenser modules were barged to the project site, they carried large banners proclaiming “A New York State project by union Boilermakers for Megrant in partnership with GEA.”

Local 5 is a construction, railroad, shipbuilding, and shop lodge chartered in 1962.