Having a customer say what they value about your product or service is much more compelling than saying it yourself. That’s why I regularly interview my customers’ customers and always use their own words. Fact, not fiction.
“There is trust at the heart of our relationship”
Two years from now, King’s Lynn Power Plant will be reborn. From the outside, little will have changed, but inside it’s a very different story.
“We’re taking the guts out of the plant and rebuilding it,” explains Mark Futyan. He leads Centrica’s Merchant power business, which spans gas-fired stations, wind farms and energy storage. “The goal of the project is to give King’s Lynn a new lease of life, underpinned by high flexibility and reliability. It will need an extremely high quality of engineering and attention to detail from Siemens.”
The King’s Lynn project is, as Mark describes it, pretty unique. “Ours is currently the only new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine [CCGT] project to get off the ground in the UK since the introduction of the Capacity Market,” he points out. “Siemens and Centrica are absolutely in the shop window right now,” adds Richard Tyreman, head of Engineering and Projects at Centrica.
Constructed by Siemens in 1997, the King’s Lynn plant ran steadily for 15 years before being put into preservation by Centrica in 2012. “It was designed for baseload operation and could no longer be run profitably in a world where gas plants have to be frequently turned on and off to accommodate renewable energy,” explains Mark. “We had to either close it or reinvent it.”
Conversations started with Siemens and the idea of a re-plant began taking shape. In 2016, Centrica announced a major investment in the 370MW station.
The new King’s Lynn plant has been designed for maximum flexibility. “That’s a theme for all of the projects we announced at the end of last year,” says Mark. They include a 49MW battery storage facility in Cumbria and two 50MW fast response distributed generation gas-fired plants in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. “Flexible generation and battery storage will play a crucial role in security and stability as more renewables come online,” he adds.
For Siemens, the work at King’s Lynn includes installing a new gas turbine, refurbishing the existing steam turbine, rewinding the generator rotor, and updating and future-proofing the control system. “Although the original design life of King’s Lynn was 25 years, the improvements we’re making should give the plant at least another 20 years of economic operation,” says Centrica’s Jon Cooper, who is project managing the re-plant.
All agree the success of the project will come down to two things: safety and collaboration. “Both are incredibly important to us and fortunately Siemens shares those values,” says Mark. “It’s a true collaborative relationship,” agrees Richard. “We’re completely open and honest with each other. I know that if anything should go wrong, there will be no finger pointing. We’ll come up with solutions that work for both of us and share in the success.”
During the conversation they return several times to the subject of safety. Richard was formerly project director of Severn Power, a CCGT plant completed by Siemens in 2010. Early in the construction there was a serious safety incident when a contractor operating a digger cut through a cable.
“That incident could easily have been a fatality and it shut the site for two weeks,” recalls Richard. “It happened 10 years ago but will stay with me for the rest of my career. It forced my team and the Siemens team to work much more closely together, and that’s a lesson I share at the start of every project. We went on to clock up 4.5 million man hours at Severn with a fantastic safety record, but the only way we did it was by trusting each other and working as one team.”
Officially the station has to be back generating by 31 October 2020 but the team is aiming for the first quarter of 2019. “We’ve been very thorough in our planning, we have the investment we need, and we have very good contractors. This project has a lot going for it,” says Richard.
His expectations of Siemens are high. “We’re very fortunate to have Siemens on this project. You’re not the cheapest, but you deliver a quality product and you have very, very good engineers. The new gas turbine is as good as any on the market but what I really value is the way you manage projects. You’ve done this many times before and your processes are second to none. You should be rightly proud of that. My simple message is: deliver as I know you can.”
Image: Gareth Lowe