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Efficiency in energy – it’s not just about solar panels and wind turbines

By Craig Hingston

An innovative Australian engineering company has introduced a new level of efficiency and cost saving to part of the Australian energy industry and it didn’t have anything to do with wind turbines or solar panels.

As another example of good ol’ “out of the box” Aussie ingenuity, Archer Engineering came up with a left-field solution to a potentially costly challenge faced by the 1460 megawatt Stanwell Power Station in Northern Queensland.

The site, which began operation in 1996, has an extensive fire suppression system and its super-critical MJC valves were nearing end of life. It wasn’t simply going to be a case of changing them over for new ones because the original manufacturer had stopped making them. This meant a new valve would have to be designed and manufactured, and that would require mandatory destructive testing – a costly exercise – plus an even greater expense: replacing the whole fire suppression infrastructure to suit the new-generation valves.

Adding to the complexity of the issue, the changeover to the new-generation system would have to fit into a brief programmed maintenance window so that there weren’t any interruptions to the state’s power supply. This was the dilemma presented to Archer, a third generation privately owned precision engineering firm with its own Manufacturing Centre of Excellence on the NSW Central Coast.

Sometimes the answer requires approaching the task from a completely new perspective and in this case potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars were saved.

Archer’s four-stage solution involved (1) designing a new stainless steel MJC valve capable of connecting to the incumbent infrastructure, (2) re-engineering the valve so that the complete unit didn’t have to be destructively tested, and the tested part could easily be replaced, (3) introducing an unorthodox changeover procedure and (4) part marking.

Archer’s installation technique allowed the power station to systematically remove the old valves and install new versions one after the other … meaning there was no interruption to power generation. The part marking was an extra initiative beyond the scope of works,

“Just like with a car manufacturer every part at the power station had a code number or reference number for record keeping. Because we developed the brand new assembly we were in effect the new OEM”, said Managing Director Brad Byrne. “House-keeping is in our culture so we determined that in addition to coming up with a valve solution for Stanwell we should support it with the necessary procedures. As each part was machined we marked it at the same time with a part number for asset management and traceability. This was programmed into the machining process.”

“We have internal controls and we know that our customers need to have them too. For phased end of life it is vital that you can always track your parts”, added Operations Manager Russell Byrne, “We assisted Stanwell with a comprehensive methodology which included part numbering, batch numbering and serial part numbering. We also generated supporting materials such as reference guides and specification sheets which they added to their preventative maintenance program.”

It is no wonder that Archer receives orders from across the world for its services.



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  1. Kaye Lee

    The latest federal government carbon emissions inventory shows Australia has increased its emissions and has come under fire for allegedly vastly underestimating the amount of land clearing that has occurred, and its associated emissions.

    The Quarterly Update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, which counts emissions in Australia up to September 2015,says greenhouse gas emissions from land clearing have fallen to record lows.

    But Guardian Australia reported last month that a report commissioned by the Wilderness Society showed a land clearing surge in Queensland since 2012 has been so big that it would create emissions roughly equal to those saved by the federal government’s emissions reduction scheme, where they paid other farmers more than $670m to stop cutting down trees.

    The amount the Queensland government said was cleared in that state alone was almost twice what the federal government said was cleared nationwide in 2014. Queensland reported that almost 300,000ha were cleared in the 2013-14 financial year, while the federal government says less than 170,000ha were cleared nationwide.

    Looking at the emissions arising from land clearing, the federal government’s report says there have been only 10.8m tonnes of C02 emitted in 2014 and 2015, and just slightly more in 2013. But the Queensland figures say that state alone produced 38m tonnes of CO2 from land clearing in 2015, up from 25m tonnes in 2013.

  2. JeffJL

    Well, not the efficiency that was implied in the title. In fact very little. More like click bait.

    A fantastic little story though. Here is an example of an Australian company demonstrating world class thinking and manufacturing. Well done by Archer (sorry, some comic just runs through my head with that name).

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