Power was restored in Morgan City around 1 a.m. today after a nine-hour outage that was a direct result of the June 26 explosive fire at the Joseph J. Cefalu Sr. Municipal Steam Plant.
City Utility Director Bill Cefalu said residents should “be prepared until we get the transformer up to 20 megawatts. It’s a touchy situation. This can happen to us again.”
That could take a couple weeks to accomplish.
Currently, all three pieces of the Morgan City power generation puzzle are working, but all have problems.
Unit 4 is generating power at 100 percent of its capacity, but only because the control valve that allows gas to flow to relight the boiler has been bypassed.
Unit 3 can only generate 9 MW, instead of its normal 15, because only three of its four boiler tubes are functioning.
The replacement transformer is on the grid and currently bringing 7 MW of power into the city from Cleco. However, it has a bad tap changer on it. Basically, the part, when working, allows crews to raise and lower the amount of power the city takes in via the transformer. The way it is currently working, crews can raise the amount the city takes in from the control room, but they must go to the transformer and lower the amount being taken in manually.
Cefalu said when the transformer gets to 20 MW, it will be able to hold enough load to take one of the generators offline for repairs. He did say that he believes the transformer can hold the entire city in an emergency situation if it needs to.
Peak load for the city has been 41 MW, which the city generally does not see until August or September. With the record heat in June, Morgan City has already hit that peak load several times. The transformer is rated to perform at 50 MW.
“The transformer is the key to stability in the system over time,” Cefalu said.
What happened Tuesday
Unit 4 — one of the two generators at the plant that had been powering the city while the transformer damaged in explosion was replaced — tripped at 4 p.m. At this point, Unit 3, the smaller of the pair, was carrying the city by itself and tripped because of a safety mechanism that keeps it from overloading.
City crews cranked up the diesel generators in an attempt to restart Units 3 and 4. Unit 3 had only three of its four boiler tubes functioning, while Unit 4 was having problems with its control valve that allows gas to flow to relight the boiler, Cefalu said.
Successive tries got Unit 3 up and running over the course of the evening, but the unit tripped twice more. The goal was to first get power to the hospital and an assisted living facility that does not have a generator, according to Cefalu.
Unit 4 came up once around 10 p.m. By 11 p.m. about ¾ of the city had power when the unit tripped, and the city went dark again.
Once the transformer came online around 1 a.m., power was restored to the city.