Antelope Valley Station employees get creative in moving coal

When a fire occurred at Antelope Valley Station last September, there was some damage to the L1 chute that brings in the coal fines from Dakota Gas’ Great Plains Synfuels Plant. Coal fines are the smaller pieces of coal that are leftover once the larger pieces are removed.

On March 14, chute repairs began for L1 which impacted train deliveries to Leland Olds Station and eliminated any way for Antelope Valley to take those fines to the barn. When both Antelope Valley units dropped to minimum load, the generation facility was unable to burn as many fines as Dakota Gas needed to remove. Meanwhile, Dakota Gas continued making more fines.

“Every minute that goes by, Dakota Gas makes fines. The longer we wait, the higher they get,” says Scott Schaner, Antelope Valley assistant coal yard supervisor.

Since Dakota Gas only wants the larger, crushed coal, they screen off the fines and move those into a silo. When the silo gets full, Antelope Valley normally takes the fines via L1 or L2. However, with low loads, no way to take the fines, repair work being done on L1, and the silo getting very full, there was no option except to shut down or move the fines.

Only one of Antelope Valley’s four ash trucks is able to fit underneath Dakota Gas’ silo, and only using one truck was not an effective way to move the fines quickly enough.

Antelope Valley has two coal bowl scrapers, which Schaner says are actually more efficient than an ash truck. “With a scraper, you’re still moving while you’re dumping fines, where with an ash truck you have to drive up to the pile, stop, dump, and then drive away.”

In an effort to lend a hand, a team of employees from The Coteau Properties Company’s Freedom Mine brought two dirt bowl scrapers, which are smaller scrapers since dirt is heavier than coal. A team from Dakota Gas also came to lend a hand.

Scraper moving coal near Antelope Valley Station
One of Coteau's dirt bowl scrapers hauling coal fines.

“Having extra people from Dakota Gas and Coteau helped because it allowed our guys to actually be able to take a break and lunch instead of working non-stop. It was nice to have some of the pressure off us,” says Schaner.

The Coteau crew made a coal pile nearby so the fines didn’t have to be moved from Dakota Gas all the way to Antelope Valley.

“If we would’ve had to drive the fines to AVS (Antelope Valley Station), we never would have been able to keep up. We would’ve needed everyone constantly,” says Schaner.

Instead, it took four full shifts to get the fines moved to Coteau’s coal pile.

The first stage of work is being completed on the L1 chute, so the plant will be able to return to more normal operations and not run into a situation like this again. The fines have now been returned to Antelope Valley and used.

“It was rare that a situation like this came up, but when these things happen, our crew is great at being creative to get the job done,” says Chad Edwards, Antelope Valley plant manager. “Having Dakota Gas and Coteau help – it was really a team effort to accomplish this big task to keep things running like they need to.”

Crew members from Antelope Valley Station, from left: Shawn Iverson, Craig Scheresky, Dwight Frank, Scott Schaner, Kyle Sailer, Shawn McConnell, and Adam Sailer.

Antelope Valley Station crew:

Brian Gehring, coal yard supervisor; Scott Schaner, assistant coal yard supervisor; Dwight Frank, yard operator; Scott Huber, yard operator; Shawn Iverson, yard operator; Shawn McConnell, yard operator; Brock Morgen, yard operator; Adam Sailer, yard operator; Kyle Sailer, yard operator; Craig Scheresky, load yard operator

Dakota Gas crew:

Rick Volk, gas production manager; Nigel Schmidt, section engineer; Danny Delger, gas production field technician; Joe Everett, electrical and instrumentation maintenance supervisor; Dawn Sellon, gas production field technician; Aaron Weisenburger, gas production field technician

Coteau crew:

Justin Hausauer, shift manager; Cortney Anderson, load & haul supervisor; Matt Chumley, mining engineer