skip to main content

Title: Recovery Act: Hydroelectric Facility Improvement Project - Replacement of Current Mechanical Seal System with Rope Packing System

On January 27, 2010 the City of North Little Rock, Arkansas received notification of the awarding of a Department of Energy (DOE) grant totaling $450,000 in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) under the Project Title: Recovery Act: Hydroelectric Facility Improvement Project – Automated Intake Clearing Equipment and Materials Management. The purpose of the grant was for improvements to be made at the City’s hydroelectric generating facility located on the Arkansas River. Improvements were to be made through the installation of an intake maintenance device (IMD) and the purchase of a large capacity wood grinder. The wood grinder was purchased in order to receive the tree limbs, tree trunks, and other organic debris that collects at the intake of the plant during high flow. The wood grinder eliminates the periodic burning of the waste material that is cleared from the intake and reduces any additional air pollution to the area. The resulting organic mulch has been made available to the public at no charge. Design discussion and planning began immediately and the wood grinder was purchased in July of 2010 and immediately put to work mulching debris that was gathered regularly from the intake of the facility.more » The mulch is currently available to the public for free. A large majority of the design process was spent in discussion with the Corps of Engineers to obtain approval for drawings, documents, and permits that were required in order to make changes to the structure of the powerhouse. In April of 2011, the City’s Project Engineer, who had overseen the application, resigned and left the City’s employ. A new Systems Mechanical Engineer was hired and tasked with overseeing the project. The transfer of responsibility led to a re-examination of the original assumptions and research upon which the grant proposal was based. At that point, the project went under review and a trip was booked for July 2011 to visit facilities that currently had an IMD installed. This further study of facilities revealed that the implementation of the project as originally described, while proving the benefits described in the original grant application, would likely intensify sand intake. Increased sand intake would lead to an increase in required shutdowns for maintenance and more rapid depreciation of key equipment which would result in a loss of generation capacity. A better solution to the problem, one that continued to meet the criteria for the original grant and ARRA standards, was developed. A supporting day trip was planned to visit other facilities located on the Arkansas River to determine how they were coping with the same strong amounts of sand, silt, and debris. Upon returning from the trip to other Arkansas River facilities it was extremely clear what direction to go in order to most efficiently address the issue of generator capacity and efficiency. Of the plants visited on the Arkansas River, every one of them was running what is called a rope packing shaft sealing system as opposed to mechanical shaft seals, which the facility was running. Rope packing is a time proven sealing method that has been around for centuries. It has proved to perform very well in dirty water situations just like that of the Arkansas River. In April of 2012 a scope change proposal was submitted to the DOE for approval. In August of 2012 the City received word that the change of scope had been approved. Plans were immediately set in motion to begin the conversion from mechanical seals to a packing box at the facility. Contractors arrived on October 1st, 2012 and the project team began unwatering the unit for disassembly. The seal conversion was completed on February 29th, 2013 with start-up of the unit. Further testing and adjusting was done throughout the first two weeks of March.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
City of North Little Rock
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States