The richness of Polish coal mines and the weight of mining activity in the country's economy have led Poland to use this natural resource as one of the main sources of power supply. Currently the country is involved in an energy transformation process that requires the modernization of its thermal power plants in order to ensure their viability, improve their performance and, above all, reduce environmental impact.
The expansion project of the thermal power plant in Opole, the historical capital city of the Upper Silesia mining region, is part of this framework. It is being managed by the state company PGE Group, the main electricity producer in Poland, and it is the most important infrastructure project undertaken in the country in the last 25 years. It also represents the largest ongoing investment currently in Europe, which will reach the total amount of around 330 million dollars.
Dominion’s participation in the project began in the very early stages of planning for the construction of the two new power generation units which are 900MW each. Dominion used its technological capabilities and the talent of its team to develop a remodelling effort that will allow for an increase in the efficiency of the electrical production by 25% and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the same percentage.
More specifically, Dominion has executed a turnkey project for the design and construction of the two 185m tall natural draft cooling towers erected with an ad-hoc designed formwork. With a diameter of 100 meters, the towers are supported by 36 radial columns that are 11.6 meters high.
"Our experience in the construction of this type of infrastructure has been key in this project, since we have been able to apply all of our knowledge, in addition to using our own development technology which has been specially designed for the construction of the cooling towers to guarantee a high performance and great quality results. The use of our own system offers advantages such as customization, adaptation to project requirements and the incorporation of improvements, "says Guillermo Álvarez, Tall Structures Director at Dominion.
Dominion has also been responsible for the design and construction of the internal structures of the towers, which allow the water distribution and combustion gases to be released from the desulphurisation unit. In addition, the infrastructure is equipped with sound inhibitors to reduce the high noise levels generated in these type of towers.
The study of the impact of the structures with the ground, the analysis of the emission of noise and the combustion gases flow calculation - which are essential to use construction materials efficiently and reduce drastic environmental impacts - have also been developed by Dominion’s multi-technical services team.
"One of the main achievements in this project has been to manage a large amount of human and material resources in an efficient way to meet the deadlines. As it was a turnkey project, it was necessary to deploy a highly qualified and multidisciplinary team, with a broad knowledge on different engineering and management fields, planning, administration and supervision of large construction works, "adds Marek Janiak, Dominion’s Project Manager in the Opole project.
Other challenges that Dominion’s team has faced during the project have been safety, control systems and communications. The team has been responsible for the electrical work, the implementation of signaling lights and the design and activation of digital communication solutions, both between the towers and in the control room. They have also carried out the commissioning of the towers.
"With this type of very large project it is critical to guarantee the safety of everyone involved in it. The safety and health of our workers is the first priority for us, so the fact that no serious accident has been reported during the project is very important achievement for us "he concludes.
In short, the execution of this project has allowed Dominion to put into practice its knowledge, technology and innovation application capabilities, the values on which the group relies to raise the efficiency of productive processes.