In the 1980s, as part of its commitment to best environmental stewardship practices, OPPD was converted to burn cleaner, lower sulfur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (PRB). Constructed over 50 years ago, the five-unit plant was initially designed to burn Midwestern produced high sulfur coal. Though now cleaner, during the initial conversion process, the plant was not fully optimized to address the particular dust mitigation techniques necessary when handling PRB coal. Adjusting material handling flow to the characteristics of PRB coal and addressing its unique safety hazards led OPPD to seek Martin Engineering’s expertise.
OPPD was using a conventional, dated material handling system. Martin Engineering already had a long service history with OPPD and was asked to conduct a safety and material handling audit specifically addressing fugitive dust and overall coal dust control. The project was completed over four phases and included transfer point upgrades to twelve belts throughout the plant and installation of insertable air cleaners in 10 load zones. Support cradles were installed under the drop chutes to absorb impact and stabilize the belt lines and prevent spillage. Martin® Air Cleaners were installed on the load zones to further reduce the escape of fugitive material. Additionally, Martin installed a Dust Fighter™ Foam System to further reduce fugitive dust.
Overall, the biggest dust control improvement has been the rebuilding of the coal transfer points to contain that dust. “We used to have lots of dust and spillage. But now that almost all of the transfer points have been rebuilt, it’s a night and day difference,” said Kirk Estee, P.E. Material Handling Supervisor at OPPD. To help ensure that all the transfer points are working properly, Martin comes to the plant monthly, walks through the belt lines and transfer points. Martin also keeps a parts inventory on site that they withdraw from as needed. If a new seal, belt cleaner or other item is needed, it is close at hand.
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