Power Down: North American Dismantling Corp. demolishes two boiler buildings in Spring Grove, PA...
Steam coal generates more than 40 percent of the United States’ total electricity and is the backbone of industrial facilities nationwide where the energy is used for heating and processing operations.
As coal-fired power plants and boiler systems age they are being retired and replaced by more efficient natural gas fueled power plants – a trend kindled by rich supplies of shale gas, higher coal costs and tighter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for emissions controls.
These are boom times for demolition contractors engaged in power plant decommissioning. The companies who labor in this league have extensive knowledge of federal, state and local regulations for environmental clean-up coupled with operator competency and the right mix of equipment.
Since 1984, North American Dismantling Corporation (NADC), based in Lapeer, Michigan, has been providing comprehensive industrial demolition for manufacturing facilities, specializing in decommissioning projects for power plants, pulp mills and chemical plants across the United States and Canada.
Greg Goscenski, NADC site superintendent with 40 years in the demo field, explains that a power plant is a unique beast in terms of what is required to bring it down safely. "NADC is a total demolition contractor, which means we handle initial permitting through site remediation, including salvaging equipment and selling scrap."
He explains, "Environmental issues are the chief concern when decommissioning a power plant or industrial boiler system, particularly with asbestos abatement, which is most usually prevalent in older plants. Larger power houses are usually situated along rivers or downtown areas with surrounding utilities and potential water contamination issues."
In Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, NADC is dismantling and demolishing two chemical boiler buildings and electrostatic precipitator at the P.H. Glatfelter Co. papermaking facility. This work was undertaken to provide the space required for two new natural gas fired boilers that will replace three coal fired boiler units. Goscenski estimates the job will be completed within six weeks and will remove 2500 tons of steel, concrete and miscellaneous scrap, 94 percent of which will be recyclable.
P.H. Glatfelter Co. was founded during the Civil War and is headquartered in nearby York. It is a global manufacturer of specialty paper products such as tea bags, postage stamps and playing cards.
Glatfelter uses its boiler system primarily for processing purposes. Low pressure steam and heat cooks the pulp and helps dry the finished paper. The steam is also used for supplemental power at the facility and sold back to the power grid.
Glatfelter is investing $55 million into the boiler system upgrades and received an additional $8 million in state funding through Economic Growth Initiative and Alternative and Clean Energy grants. These improvements meet new U.S. air quality standards and also make Glatfelter one of the largest users of natural gas in central Pennsylvania.
NADC removed two (2) 1950's era chemical recovery boilers, one 130 feet high and the second 100 feet high, to lighten the overall weight of the superstructures. This was followed by a targeted material reduction dismantle including stacks, combustion chambers and tube bundles and then dismantling the outer steel walls. This approach allowed NADC to maintain total control of the structure during demolition the activities without impacting Glatfelter’s ongoing normal operations.
The biggest challenge with the project was the limited space NADC had to work within. The boiler buildings were boxed between two operational control rooms – with a slim seven-foot passageway between – and ringed by live pipes carrying boiling liquefied paper pulp and steam. "We have to take every precaution to not puncture any of the piping or buildings with falling debris," Goscenski adds.
A skywalk connector approximately 25 feet overhead hindered easy access to the work site and caused the NADC crew to limbo its three Volvo excavators into position.
The mainstay of work was completed by a Volvo EC700CHR ultra high reach excavator equipped with a LaBounty MSD 1500 hydraulic rotating shear. The machine is the largest in the Volvo demolition excavator product line with an operating weight of 196,189 pounds and maximum pin height reach of 105.1 feet.
The ultra-high reach excavator is factory-fitted with the Volvo demolition guard kit that includes frame-mounted falling object guard (FOG) to protect the operator and cab from wayward debris, double thickness side doors, bolt-in side impact protection plates and full length track chain guards to keep demolition debris from lodging in the tracks.
The EC700CHR replaced two other excavators in NADC’s demo fleet. Goscenski says the company was sold on the Volvo machine’s versatility and size, which allows for easy assembling along with mobilizing and demobilizing loading from site to site – a boon for NADC’s lean crew.
Says Goscenski, "When I started working in demolition in 1975, we had a wrecking ball and an excavator. Today the demands are much greater for high precision work. You have to invest in the equipment to do the work required and that is what customers expect.
"The EC700 is a more versatile machine for us. With the boom self-assembly you don’t need a second excavator to assist and with the different configurations that are available it’s like having two machines in one. For example, with the shorter configuration we can add a heavier shear on the end to give more power at lower heights."
The Volvo innovative modular joint design uses a hydraulic lock mechanism release to convert the high reach demolition boom to a standard excavator configuration in less than one hour.
Additionally, the retractable undercarriage expands up to 3.1 feet to increase stability on uneven ground and is a plus for compact transporting between job sites, which in the case for NADC when projects may be thousands of miles away.
Inside the tilting cab that pivots up to 30 degrees, a standard camera projects the view from the top of the boom. NADC supplements with a second camera mounted high on an adjacent building to cast an alternative perspective. If the operator cannot clearly see where the shear is maneuvering, he can radio to Goscenski in the office trailer for guidance. This camera feeds over the Internet, so employees back at the Michigan headquarters can also check the progress on the job site.
Working alongside the EC700 is an older Volvo EC460B excavator with 9500 hours that is used for material processing along with a Volvo EC380EL excavator equipped with a LaBounty grapple.
The EC380 is powered by a Tier 4 Final Volvo D13 engine with fuel economizing perks such as automatic idling which can be set by the operator and reduces the controls to idle when inactive for a set period of time.
Goscenski estimates he is seeing 10 to 15 percent savings in planned fuel consumption with the trio of Volvo excavators on this job site.
Michigan-based Alta Equipment Company assisted NADC with the purchase of their Volvo equipment and has had a long-standing relationship with the contractor. As a traveling demolition company, NADC also relies on the support of the Volvo Construction Equipment dealer network, with a Volvo dealer located wherever the job takes them.
North American Dismantling Corporation is a member of the National Demolition Association and International Association of Demolition Contractors.