Project expected to increase worker numbers

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Combined with a scheduled outage, the environmental retrofit at the Craig Station Power Plant is expected to bring the biggest influx of workers to Craig since the plant's third unit was added to the 1,264-megawatt facility.

Manpower is expected to hit a high of approximately 450 by September, decrease again by November and then climb again when the summer of 2004 hits and a second scheduled outage is implemented at the end of April.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, part owner of the Craig Station, is facing two large projects that will take them through the middle of 2004 and cost an estimated $116 million.

The biggest project, an environmental retrofit, is the result of a lawsuit brought against the power plant by the Sierra Club filed Oct. 9, 1996.

The owners of the power plant settled the lawsuit by agreeing to upgrade its pollution control systems in Units 1 and 2 to baghouses. Baghouses use state-of-the-art equipment to better contain particles released into the air during the process of burning coal for energy using a bag filter. The current system uses electrostatic precipitators that capture particles and uses wet limestone scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide.

Unit 3, wholly owned by Tri-State, is already equipped with a baghouse.

At its height, that construction is expected to have nearly 300 plumbers, pipe fitters, operating engineers, general laborers and electrical workers on its payroll.

According to Jim Van Someren, communications manager for Tri-State, manpower for the environmental project was at its height in mid-November at about 110, but has decreased to about 90 as winter set in. Later this month, the number of employees is expected to increase by 25 to 30 and continue to increase as certain projects are scheduled. The number of workers should max out in mid-August, Van Someren said.

Construction of the baghouse is 30 percent complete and Van Someren said the project is on schedule. Seventy-six percent -- 3.7 million pounds -- of the steel necessary for the project is on-site.

"Basically right now we're building the infrastructure for the equipment that's going to go in there," Van Someren said.

The project, originally expected to cost $105 million, is over budget and now is expected to cost about $116 million -- a cost Tri-State will share with the four other part-owners of the Craig Station's Units 1 and 2.

The overrun is attributed to higher costs for equipment and components than was originally budgeted.

"A lot of things just came in at higher costs than what was originally projected," Van Someren said.

The second project is a planned outage -- an event that occurs about once every three years and is scheduled to coincide with the environmental project.

Unit 1 will be completely shut down in mid-September for cleaning and testing.

"Basically you could compare it to a tune-up on a car," Van Someren said.

The outage is expected to last approximately seven weeks and take 100-150 workers to complete.

"We tried to schedule the outage in conjunction with the environmental project because that unit will have to be brought off-line at sometime for that project," Van Someren said.

Unit 2 is scheduled for outage in mid-March of 2004 and expected to need the same amount of workers.

"Our employees can handle a certain amount (of the work during the outage) and we'll outsource certain work," Van Someren said.

Both outages are scheduled for times when energy demand is not at a peak.

"We'd never schedule an outage for say the dead of winter, or the middle of summer for that matter," Van Someren said.

Units 1 and 2 each generate 428 megawatts of power. Unit 3 generates 407 megawatts. One megawatt serves the power requirement of about 1,000 residential customers.

Tri-State, which owns 24 percent of Units 1 and 2 and manages them, has made other arrangements for supplemental electricity to meet the needs of its 44 member cooperatives. Combined, they serve more than 502,000 meters in a 250,000-square-mile area.

"We know that it is scheduled and will make other provisions, whether we go out and buy supplemental power or depend on our other facilities."

Tri-State also owns, or is partner in, generating stations in Nucla, Wheatland, Wyo., Prewitt, N.M., Burlington, Colo., Limon, Colo., Rifle, Colo., Brighton, Colo., and one in Lordsburg, N.M., which is currently under construction.

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