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Coal fired power station failed - Callide


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In the news lately, is the failure of one turbine in Callide power station.

Somehow one turbine supplying maybe at most 400 Mw to our east coast grid, failed catastrophically. In itself it's no surprise. Machines break.

 

As a result, the grid dropped off about a third of the Queensland load. The load at the time was maybe 5,000Mw.

I question how an initial loss of about 10% caused this deck of cards to collapse.

We have a federal authority in charge of grid and power generation. They are located in Brisbane. AEMO is tasked with maintaining sufficient spinning reserve at all times, to cope with sudden loss of any generator on the entire east coast.

 

This blackout experienced by 470,000 consumers would be due to grid instability, rather than the failure of one power supplier. Grid stability is AEMO's responsibility.

 Incidentally least this time some credit was given for wind and solar which helped grid stability a little in this instance

 

In the old days there was always enough spinning reserve to allow for sudden failures like this We had some extra coal burning as insurance against a failure in the system. But such a luxury was called 'gold plating'. In our rush to cut the costs of electricity, (something promised by government) we must accept a lower continuity of service. This is in accord with the american business model of power generation business. Their model is to reduce the quality of infrastructure and maintenance until the level of blackouts encounters 'consumer resistance'.

It looks like we are getting to that point here in Australia.

Edited by nomadpete
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BUT !

Were is all the SOLAR power , In Queensland daytime.

"We had our power stations operating last night, we had our wind farms operating last night, we had Wivenhoe pumped hydro operating last night and those facilities will continue to operate for electricity and keep the lights on while we restore power out at Callide," said Energy minister Mick de Brenni ".

 

spacesailor

Edited by spacesailor
missing information
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So far, there isn't enough solar, wind or hydro power generated to run the country when any one big generator drops off.

 

Which has the same outcome as not having enough coal fired generation available to fill the gap when any one generator drops off.

There are enough generators available to supply the east coast in this case, but the grid controllers didn't have them all running on standby, because they are trying to cut the cost of electricity, in order to make coal fired electricity look cheaper than it really is.

 

I'll bet that as a result of this blackout, there is a big spike in orders for batteries for home solar!

Edited by nomadpete
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Super critical coal ones only operate efficiently at a narrow output near 100%. They are not much use when things are fluctuating and take a while to bring on line.  Load shedding would maybe work if it was automatic by arrangement with users (at a lower price to them). An aircraft jet engine operating on gas would be quick to fire up , but low efficiency. Peterborough had a gas fed converted Diesel piston motor/ generator for years  They are even talking of diesel for stand by FFS. All along the east coast is suitable for pump hydro . I believe you only need a fall of 300 metres. Coal based hydrogen?? Another stupid idea that must not happen.  Nev

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It would be interesting to find if a reduction in maintenance levels, trying to reduce costs, is behind this Callide turbine failure. A pretty common scenario in many machinery-oriented operations.

Rather than indulge in preventative planned maintenance, they run it way past acceptable wear levels, and only replace it when it breaks!

 

During 1942 at the height of the War, Perths major powerhouse at East Perth was unable to source enough skilled employees and an adequate parts supply, and started running on minimum maintenance levels.

At 2:00AM one morning during 1942, one of the steam turbines, suffering from long-overdue maintenance, failed spectacularly, by exploding with tremendous force.

Chunks of rotating components exploded through the walls and windows of the powerhouse, sending some large pieces, some as big as 400kgs, right across the Swan River, with some landing on the nearby Bunbury rail bridge.

 

Incredibly, because of the hour, and because the staffing levels were so low, no-one was killed or injured, and all the damage was merely mechanical and structural.

It cost many thousands of pounds to replace the turbine and repair the powerhouse building. It was not reported due to Wartime censorship. Definitely a case for supporting the old saying, a "stitch in time saves nine".

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It's not only about the long time lag that a coal or even gas fired power station needs when it does a cold start. Consider that every turbine feeding the grid must be in rotational sync at all times. They have a substantial spinning mass, the heaviest by far would be Wivenhoe hydro which has two water wheels each weighing 300tons. Regulation and connection to grid is mostly automated. The steam turbines are a lot lighter than hydro, so the response times of each generator will be different. but when the grid gets a sudden loss of a generator, all the others have to respond fast with lots more steam or water, and all the while stay in rotational sync with each other.

When Callide tripped off, all other generators turned their wick up. I'm guessing some weren't quick enough to maintain sync and tripped off due to underspeed. As soon as one trips off, the rest again try to compensate. And it repeats.

That is the nature of a grid instability.

 

Once a couple of major feeders isolated the unstable group, it can take many hours to reconnect because the loads must be connected a little at a time to allow al generators on the grid to gently rise to match the load. Turning everyone back on suddenly would cause another instability.

 

Basically, fossil fuelled steam was a great idea when it was the best we had. But is a very wasteful way to supply power because it requires wasting fuel to run the spinning reserve that allows for failures or variation in load. In contrast, electronic power systems such as solar, hydro and wind can be brought on line in milliseconds.

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I'd rather see smaller batteries. Maybe rooftop solar microgrids supplying a suburban block battery. With the ability to cross connect to a neighboring block temporarily when one battery/inverter fails. So consumers don't have a blackout when something fails.

 

Offering reliability of supply without the big grid and allowing retirement of obsolete fossil fuelled big power stations.

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There's a lot to said for "decentralisation" of power production. The need for long power distribution/transmission lines, with their attendant ugliness and power losses is removed; The possibility of a power system failure blacking out hundreds of thousands of homes is reduced with local, smaller power generation and storage systems; Severe weather events and natural disasters such as earthquakes or fires, will have a lesser effect on decentralised power production. 

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"  So consumersdo not have to",

Wnen  our local grid failed, we used to have power to the Residental user,s & not to industrial,

BIG CRY

From industry changed it about, now we come home to defrosted fridges,cold water, &  ruined food & people on medical contraptions have to call an ambulance. 

So

Who,s got the short stick ?.one or two companies or a thousand people.

spacesailor

 

 

 

 

 

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The proliferation of home battery systems is inevitable and would make our grid both stable and much more efficient.

The large power companies are as threatened by this as were centralized ice-works a century ago-

when people could not imagine that every home (let alone every car) would have its own, self-contained and super-reliable refrigeration system. 

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Once connected Back EMF tends to keep generators in SYNCH. IF somethings not connected it must be connected in synch or you'll blow everything. 50 hertz the hum of the network.. Batteries have to go through an Inverter which must electronically synch to the system. I'm not fully aware how that's done. It'd have to take it's cue from a key source or risk instability.  Nev

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2 hours ago, onetrack said:

There's a lot to said for "decentralisation" of power production. The need for long power distribution/transmission lines, with their attendant ugliness and power losses is removed;

i agree but at this stage we need both.   The grid we have is large and although I think it will evolve towards  smaller and micro grids.  This is already happening (more overseas than here).      The problem is that as enthusiastic as I am, at the moment the economics are just not there yet.   I have looked into a house battery and  I do not need it to be the cheapest option but at the moment a battery for one household is pretty pricey and I suspect the carbon footprint may not yet be there.    I suspect neighborhood batteries may be economical.    

 

Large battery storage is economical and they are being built at an impressive rate.  There is one being built quite near me.    The benefit of building large batteries is that they are great money makers for the owners.  Another benefit is that the cost of batteries will reduce more rapidly due to economies of scale.    By way of an analogy, early computers were adopted by large businesses followed by smaller businesses and then perhaps wealthier individuals before filtering down to the ordinary person.   Now most houses  would contain many computers.  But Onetrack I do agree with your point.

 

42 minutes ago, Old Koreelah said:

The proliferation of home battery systems is inevitable and would make our grid both stable and much more efficient.

The large power companies are as threatened by this as were centralized ice-works a century ago-

when people could not imagine that every home (let alone every car) would have its own, self-contained and super-reliable refrigeration system. 

 

Absolutely.    

 

I have had rooftop solar for almost 18 months now and I monitor it closely.   In the first year I generated 5.4MWh and exported 3.5MWh back to the grid.   Of course I drew back form the grid overnight.  I would much prefer to store this energy locally in perhaps an EV with vehicle to home capability.   I do think the electricity generators and retailers have a looming problem,

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The major problem with the Callide failure was that one turbine was off for maintenance and when they had the failure the others were shut down because of the fire in the turbine room. This meant that two good turbines were shut down.

When you consider how much power is used by Boyne Smelter making aluminium and it can only be off line for a few hours before all the molten aluminium in the pots goes hard, there can be a major problem very quickly.

Our government has a one track mind to use more coal and reduce the solar. they are even talking about charging people to input home grown solar into the system. All caused by their stupid system to encourage home solar by paying 44c per kW and selling it at 22c per kW. What they should have encouraged was hoe solar feeding home or local area batteries. As it is at the moment we can feed power into the grid, but most of us cannot use what our rooftop array collects when the grid shuts down. Seems stupid to me.

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17 hours ago, Yenn said:

...power is used by Boyne Smelter making aluminium and it can only be off line for a few hours before all the molten aluminium in the pots goes hard...

This reminds me of the ingenious WWII plot by the Nazis to cripple US aircraft construction. Saboteurs landed via U-boat to blow up a few key power pylons, so that molten aluminium would go solid in the pots, requiring months of jackhammer work to clear them. (The plan failed when at least one saboteur got cold feet and dobbed in his mates, who ended up being executed.)

 

The lesson for us today is that we are very vulnerable to cyber attacks that could cripple whole industries.

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If Boyne smelters go offline for 4 hours, they have to discard the pots. The contents cannot be saved. So there is a big penalty clause in their supply contract. Load shedding is designed around this so the smelters are the last to go offline in a severe event.

I recall that back around 1977 (Gladstone PS was new back then), Joh was supplying the smelters electrons at a rate cheaper than we could make them in the power station. And he was using this as leverage, trying to get a multinational to make another smelter nearby. We had to spend millions refurbishing some very old power stations (Bulimba, Tennyson) to prevent load shedding in Brisbane, to guarantee continuity to smelters. But it was a wasted effort because Joh's deal eventually fell through. So then we decommissioned the refurbished Bulimba power station.

 

Back in the 70's all Queensland power stations and grid were owned by the state government.

Now that most of it has become fragmented so there are more CEO's and boards, and less co-ordination than ever before. The public have been told it's a cheaper way to do things.

Edited by nomadpete
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I must make some corrections to my East Perth powerhouse story, because I wrote it from memory, unable to find any news item on it at the time of making the post.

But since then, I found an original news article, and I need to correct my memory errors. The year of the powerhouse explosion was 1947, not 1942 - but the essence of the story is still correct.

 

It's interesting to note that the Chairman of the Electricity Commission immediately claimed there was no "lack of maintenance" problem - then went on to outline the turbine had been running since 1917 without any major maintenance!

He then also went on to complain that, "Owing to the shortages of stores, spare parts and equipment, maintenance had fallen behind"! This bloke was obviously a prime candidate for a political post, with that style of double-speak!

 

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/95532032

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If it's any consolation, our power grid operators go to great lengths to keep a data gap (ie: internet access possibility) between the operational control systems and the outside world.

Most of the control and measurement I've seen was simply not IP addressable. They kept the systems operating on out of date systems in order to remain on robust, proven technology. No cutting edge unproven electronics at all. Even our office refused to run a current version of windows, because systems usually reach their peak quality just before they become obsolete.

I left the industry (Qld) a couple of years ago so things might be changing. But change in that industry has always been rather slow, for the above reason.

So, I don't think a hacker (cyber attack) is likely to cause a blackout in Australia any time soon.

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I think you will find that Boyne smelter could go a little more than 4 hours, but 20 would definitely do a lot of damage without power.

Cyber attacks are happening and the latest was on a meat processor. There have been several recently and I am wondering if someone or some natiion is just working how much damage they can do. Little test jobs, getting ready for one big one which will be designed to cripple nations.

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Yenn, the times I quoted were what I was told during site induction at Boyne island.

 

My mention of guarantee of supply comes from working for the power station owners, supported by site induction information.

 

Although they might have been trying to frighten us, I tended to believe them.

 

I was working on power feed protection equipment in Gladstone Power station, Switchyard and Boyne island.

 

A mistake in my work had the potential to trip them off, so we took our work very seriously.

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Again, I say most of the switchgear was not IP addressable so hackers couldn't trip a feeder. I am aware that newer substations will have An internal internet but last I heard it was not in any way connected to any gateways/routers/switches that might allow hackers to access any of it.

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