20, No. 14, Feb. 15, 2001
Abbott back to routine after January
News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 333-2894; firstname.lastname@example.org
The UIs Abbott
Power Plant is back to fairly routine operation following a Jan. 26
explosion and fire that cut power and steam heat to much of the campus,
says Terry Ruprecht, chief facilities officer for the campus.
Key pieces of electrical equipment destroyed or damaged in the incident
have yet to be replaced, Ruprecht said, but other equipment and systems
that were temporarily sidelined have been brought back into service.
Among those were coal-fired boilers that had to be shut down because
electrical power was not available for their operation. Also, a second
main electrical feed from the plant to the campus has been re-energized
after it was rendered unusable on the day of the fire.
Cost estimates on the damage to the plant were not yet available from
the insurance company earlier this week, Ruprecht said. But staff with
the Operation and Maintenance Division have estimated that the cost
of replacing five switch-gear enclosures damaged in the explosion and
fire is in the range of $400,000, he said.
It was in one of those enclosures where the explosion occurred about
8:20 a.m. on Jan. 26, "almost undoubtedly" as the result of
a current arc in a large circuit breaker, Ruprecht said.
The explosion and resulting fire required the shutdown of electric power
running through the plant, as well as the shutdown of the steam system.
This left probably three-quarters of campus buildings without electricity
and almost all campus buildings without steam for heating.
Electric power was returned to some of the affected buildings within
about three hours, steam was flowing again by mid-afternoon, and power
was completely restored to the campus shortly before midnight through
the efforts of O&M engineers, craftspersons and power-plant staff.
Ruprecht said he had received no reports of serious damage or loss outside
of the plant as a result of the power outage, including research areas.
"We know of no major losses in animal areas," he said, and
no major losses had been reported due to loss of power to low-temperature
But in the case of low-temperature storage, "I have heard about
an awful lot of time and effort and cooperation between research units"
to avoid such losses, he said.
The outage may have served as a wake-up call for some units that either
thought they had access to backup generators or hadnt considered
the need, Ruprecht said. "The silver lining to this was that we
had become somewhat complacent due to a lack of major power outages.
But as a result of this, people on both the facility side and on the
research side are looking much harder at their operations and the availability
of emergency power."
As for avoiding similar incidents in the future, Ruprecht said, that
should be taken care of through plans for the plant that were already
under way. The university administration and O&M staff are planning
an addition to Abbott that will replace a lot of older equipment and
increase the plants generating capacity. Work on the plant could
begin within the next 12 months, and be complete within three years,
"By two to three years from now, this wouldnt have happened,
because we would have had mostly new equipment in there," he said.