HAYWARD – Last year’s explosion at a power station that sparked a fire and sent debris flying hundreds of feet was caused by too much pressurized water and high temperatures, combined with operators power plant failed to detect the problem in time, investigators determined.
The water buildup was the result of a gearbox failure that led to a valve not closing as it should, according to a letter from Calpine Corporation of Houston, which operates the site.
The Russell City Energy Center was closed after the steam turbine explosion, but was allowed to resume partial operation on July 15 despite objections from local authorities and residents. The national energy commission said the power generated by the plant (up to 350 megawatts) could be needed during forecast heat waves last summer and fall as backup. From August 10 to September 23, the center was called upon 11 times to help meet energy demands.
The natural gas power station is still not operating at full capacity, although Calpine hopes to be back by summer.
“I know I speak on behalf of all the commissioners that we were just appalled at the situation and no lives were lost, but they could have been,” Commissioner Patty Monahan said on Wednesday during the a meeting of the California Energy Commission. “We recognize that, and so making sure that we do everything we can to make communities safe when providing electricity, is kind of a core value for all of us.”
The steam turbine exploded just before midnight on May 27, starting a fire in the power plant at 3862 Depot Road near the Hayward shore.
Although no one was injured, the explosion was so powerful that it threw a 15-pound piece of metal through the roof of an unoccupied trailer at the City’s Housing Navigation Center in Whitesell Street and Depot Road, about 1,200 feet. The center provides transitional shelter for the homeless.
Another piece of metal weighing 51 pounds landed at the city’s water pollution control facility at 3700 Enterprise Ave.
The cause of the explosion was determined by a joint investigation by the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. In October, representatives from both agencies began meeting weekly to review the situation at the power plant. Investigators reviewed 100 documents, interviewed 12 witnesses and inspected the factory nine times. There were also three site visits by a commissioner and an audit.
“We have heard and acknowledge the concerns raised by the joint agencies and the local community,” Michael Del Casale, Calpine’s senior vice president of operations, wrote in a letter to the energy commission. “Calpine understands the need to take steps to ensure that an event like this never happens again in Russell City or any other Calpine facility, and has developed a thorough plan to address the design issues that led to this event.”
After receiving permission to operate at limited capacity, power plant operators were ordered to meet with energy commission staff and the Hayward Fire Department to review and improve Calpine’s response. to emergencies. Russell City will now coordinate with the Hayward Fire Department to conduct at least two general emergency drills and one mock rescue drill per year. In addition, plant staff will hold roundtables with Hayward firefighters following the drills.
After the May blast and fire were reported, every Hayward firefighter on duty was dispatched to the power plant while Oakland and Alameda County firefighters were called in to assist each other to handle other calls.
In February, the agency’s joint team and independent consultants will carry out another inspection of the power plant. They will focus on the equipment that was involved in the accident, the heat recovery steam generator system and any operating, maintenance and facility management practices that may have contributed to the accident. explosion and fire.