Basin Electric pilots fly to East Coast to pick up parts for Dry Fork Station outage

Basin Electric pilots Kelby Hovey and Mark Scheele pictured in the cooperative aircraft.

The word “outage” can have a bad connotation outside the utility industry, but for power plants like Dry Fork Station near Gillette Wyoming, outages are a necessary and planned action required for maintenance purposes.

Continuous shipping delays caused by transportation issues as well as supply shortages meant Dry Fork Station’s planned outage would be longer than expected. The parts they needed for their turbine control valves were running late, which could have extended the outage to much longer than planned, resulting in not being able to serve members and sell power into the market at that time. This is what caused Basin Electric pilots, Kelby Hovey and Mark Scheele, to fly a corporate aircraft last minute to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 11.

The parts missing were crucial. Basin Electric electrical engineer III, Nick Sundahl, was onsite throughout the outage. “We were wrapping up the last few loop checks associated with the steam turbine control system upgrade when we discovered the LVDTs (linear variable differential transformers) were not compatible with the control system," he says. "These components are critical for reporting the position of the steam valves to the control system for assisting with regulating the flow of steam into the turbine. Without them, the unit cannot run.”

Tom Stalcup, Dry Fork Station plant manager, says without Hovey and Scheele making the eastward flight, “we could have overnighted the parts to Gillette, but more often than not, overnight means two days.”

Basin Electric aviation manager, Ryan Anderson, says, “It is missions like these that really show the true value of the cooperative aircraft.”

Scheele says flying for Basin Electric, pilots get to see the mission they are helping to complete. “Cargo flights, like this one for Dry Fork Station, are always rewarding for us because they highlight the value of the flight department,” Scheele says. “It is much easier to see the actual dollars saved when we bring a key part to a plant to get it back online. There is a great sense of accomplishment when the mission gets completed.”

The seven-hour flight, routed from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, then to Gillette, Wyoming, saved the outage a crucial amount of time. Katie Sanders, Dry Fork Station electrical engineer III, was the onsite representative for the turbine control upgrade project. “By utilizing Basin Electric’s aircraft and pilots to get the parts, as well as our technicians to install the parts overnight, we were able to only delay testing by approximately five hours instead of 24-36 hours,” she says. According to Basin Electric’s Marketing team, this calculates to a value of $700,000 additional margin that was able to be captured from the time saved.

Hovey says Basin Electric’s flight division, “provides a dependable, efficient, and safe means to transport people and cargo. As a result of our availability and flexibility, we were able to get an essential part to Dry Fork Station prior to a spring blizzard, saving Basin Electric valuable time and money."

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