RollaStep’s mobile cantilever work platform solves boiler access problems while saving DCO Energy, a thermal power plant company, 80% of project costs, and over two months in production time.
With one of the best reputations in the energy business for the gaming industry, DCO Energy is a vertically integrated company that handles engineering, construction, start-up, commissioning, and operating services for thermal energy plants serving single customers as well as district energy plants where underground pipes serve multiple casinos and convention centers in Atlantic City, NJ. Efficiency and cost-effectiveness lead the way in all development projects for the energy expert, which is why DCO Plant Manager John Rauch was dismayed to learn that the manufacturer of their boiler had no access solutions available so Rauch’s operators could execute the maintenance required to pass the state-mandated annual inspections and avoid electrical hazards.
The convention center thermal energy plant taps into a district energy system supplying cold water in the warm summer months and hot water in the winter which gets distributed to air handlers to keep casino and convention center staff and patrons comfortable in ambient temperature year-round. Traditional thermal power plants are also known as combustion power plants. Electricity is produced by a steam boiler which activates a turbine that drives an alternator. In most cases, gas turbines are used to supplement production during outages and unexpected peaks in consumption.
A catwalk could be installed above all three boilers with ladders to climb down toward the boilers. However, extensive structural reinforcements made custom fabrication totally cost-prohibitive, estimated to be anywhere from $50-75,000.
In addition to the extreme pressure created when the steam is created, the three extra-large boilers at this facility are lined up side by side making access for operators an enormous logistical challenge while putting their safety at great risk. While in production, access to the boilers is not necessary. However, annual maintenance requires operators to replace three 50 pound safeties located on top of each boiler. Under such tight conditions, safe ladder, stair, and walkway access to the boilers are challenging to say the least. As the boiler builds up pressure, it will explode if a consistent water level is not maintained. The safety prevents it from over-pressurizing and blowing up, an extremely important part of any steam plant. Safety valves (relief valves) are replaced annually or bi-annually depending on the jurisdiction, but the boilers must be inspected by the state every year regardless.
With safe access for maintenance and inspection of the boilers non-negotiable, Rauch started with manufacturer Cleaver-Brooks, assuming they would have a solution to offer. With easy access to all drawings on the design of the boilers, a railing/ladder retrofit with walkways in between seemed logical. No luck. The second option was to create a custom fabricated access catwalk solution. A catwalk could be installed above all three boilers with ladders to climb down toward the boilers. However, extensive structural reinforcements made custom fabrication totally cost-prohibitive, estimated to be anywhere from $50-75,000.
An online search led Rauch to SafeRack. Once photos and dimensions of rolling ladders and work platforms were shared with our team, our engineers were able to make a minor modification to customize our RollaStep Mobile Cantilever Work Platform to suit the needs of DCO Energy perfectly. As huge quotes came in requiring extensive and expensive custom fabrication, John Rauch knew there was no way he could justify the cost. “This is a seasonal plant,” Rauch explained. “Although there was no way we were going to compromise the safety of our maintenance workers or our ability to stay compliant, the revenue from it isn’t much. We had to be mindful, smart, and economical. SafeRack played right into those needs from the start.”
In the end, Rauch and his team know they made the right decision. “Working with SafeRack was very straightforward. The rep would send drawings, get dimensions, and make changes as necessary,” explains Rauch. Although there were some surprises when it came to freight cost (because of the size and weight of the mobile platform and attributed to the shipping company) the whole process was very positive for DCO Energy and they report an 80% savings when compared to the alternative custom fabrication bids they received.
“The installation is perfect,” Rauch says. “Given the height and mechanics it’s a little bit heavy, but the wheels make it easy for two people to move.” Unloading required only a forklift and the DCO team found no complications to the assembly and installation of the RollaStep C-series mobile platform. “It rolls easily, fits exactly as expected, and makes it simple for operators to work on the boiler,” reports Rauch. “It’s very sturdy and very secure. We’re very satisfied.”
What is a thermal power plant?
Traditional thermal power plants: also called combustion power plants, they operate with energy produced by a steam boiler fueled by coal, natural gas, heating oil, as well as by biomass. The steam activates a turbine which, in turn, drives an alternator to produce electricity
1. Fuel (Examples: coal, natural gas, heating oil, biomass), 2. Boiler, 3. Turbine, 4. Generator, 5. Transformers, 6. Cooling Tower
DCO Energy, LLC is an independent energy development company specializing in the development, engineering, construction, start-up, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and management, as well as, ownership of Central Energy Centers (CEC), Renewable Energy projects and Combined Heat, Chilling and Power (CHCP) Production Facilities.
Collectively, DCO team members have been independently developing projects or have developed and operated approximately 344 MW of electric, 619.23 MMBtu/hr of Heat Recovery, 2,857 MMBtu/hr of Boiler Capacity, and 144,220 tons of Chilled Water Capacity of energy-producing facilities totaling over $1 billion dollars of assets.
DCO provides financing, engineering and design, construction management, startup and commissioning resources, and long-term operating and maintenance services for its own.
By Tony Dublino
Tony joined the SafeRack team in 2018, but he has been helping clients solve logistical and industrial challenges since 2000. His goal is to come up with a solution that maximizes the customer’s ROI and satisfaction. Tony is the Regional Area Manager for New Jersey and the Greater New York City area.