Alabama Power’s Washington County CoGen celebrates two decades
A triple play in baseball is rare and sure to be replayed on ESPN.
While they won’t make SportsCenter highlights, just as rare are the triple-qualified journeymen who work at the Washington County Cogeneration power plant 40 miles north of Mobile – the first in Alabama Power history to be qualified simultaneously as mechanics, electrical and instrumentation employees and plant operators.
That exclusive milestone is being recognized in 2019 as the plant celebrates its 20-year anniversary.
“We’re responsible for all aspects of the plant,” said Jim Eubanks, one of the original journeymen when the cogen plant opened in 1999 who is still on the job. “I enjoy being able to do all three classifications and being able to work outside the control room. We are a small group and great team of people that work really well together.”
Another milestone is the unusual nature of the plant – a “combined-cycle” facility using both steam and natural gas to make electricity for all customers, and steam exclusively for Olin Corp., an international leader in the production of chemicals and one of Southern Company’s largest customers. The Alabama Power plant is onsite at Olin.
Olin’s $700 million factory was built in 1952 on the banks of the Tombigbee River, just west of U.S. Highway 43 in southwest Washington County. It employs 300 people and uses the chlor-alkali process to make bleach, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen and caustic soda for a variety of industrial uses, including the pulp and paper industry, textiles, vinyl, food processing, soap and cleaning products.
“Good neighbors are a treasure beyond measure,” said Olin Plant Manager Ken Corley. “With aligned cultures and core principles of safety, reliability and exceptional customer service, Olin deeply appreciates and values our strong collaboration with Alabama Power.”
The history of the cogen plant dates back to the mid-1990s, when Alabama Power’s Marketing department thought outside the box to offer steam to several major industrial customers, one of which was Olin. Many chemical-making industries use high-pressure steam for internal functions.
The APC cogen unit was designed by Southern Company Services Engineering and built by Southern Company construction. It was the first combined-cycle plant in Southern’s retail fleet. In the plant, natural gas ignites burners that compress air, turning turbine blades of one generator. Exhaust flows through the heat recovery steam generator, producing steam that turns another generator. Some steam is siphoned off and sent to Olin for its industrial processes.
The cogen plant employs 26 workers, including 14 journeymen, an Operations and Maintenance manager, operations team leader, instrumentation and control specialist, chemical technician, engineer; power generation analyst, and six shared employees.
“Through the years, the staff has dealt with everything from alligators to hurricanes,” said Danny Bolerjack, manager of Operations and Maintenance. “The unit has demonstrated high reliability as personnel focus on the main purpose of the plant: providing steam to one of Southern Company’s biggest industrial customers.”
Alabama Power has two other cogeneration plants, in Theodore and Lowndes County west of Montgomery.
(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)