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South Hedland construction update: Q&A with Jamie Hodel, project manager

The South Hedland site has been busy since construction began in February 2015, including achieving a construction milestone with the first gas turbine arrival on site in early November. The 150 megawatt (MW) power station will begin generating power in 2017 and will help meet the future energy needs of the region through a 25-year agreement with both Horizon Power and Fortescue Metals Group. The following is an interview with the South Hedland project manager, Jamie Hodel, on the power plant construction progress.

Since construction began in February this year, what work has been completed on site?

Extensive work has been done to the site’s foundation to host the power station structure and equipment. This included re-compaction of earth works to raise the level of the power plant.

Following the earthworks, main foundations were completed and are now ready for major equipment, such as the open cycle unit followed by the combined cycle units and air cooled condenser. The next step was to complete the installation of all the underground services.

What is the significance of the land preparation that was done in the first phase of construction?

The condition of the site and the quality of the foundations are critical to long-term and reliable operation of the plant. In this particular region, cyclone events are common from November to April, so it was necessary to raise the final elevation of the site up to above the flood-plain, which will ensure there are no flooding issues. The final elevation combined with a good drainage system will protect the site from cyclone events.

What work is currently happening on site?

The site is currently transitioning from the land and foundation preparation phase into mechanical and electrical installations. Our engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, IHI Engineering Australia (IHI), has taken a segmented approach to the construction of the station, meaning much of the equipment arriving in pre-assembled units and is installed on its foundations immediately upon arrival to site. The first major piece of equipment, the open-cycle gas turbine and generator, arrived on site in early November. The largest delivery will be the air cooled condenser that will arrive on-site in December.

How does the major equipment get to the power station site?

Equipment has been sourced from all over the world, including shipments from Japan, Sweden, Canada, the United States, Germany, China, Turkey, Thailand and Australia. Most of the major equipment will travel by ship to Port Hedland and then be transported to the site on road, which is a trip of approximately 20 km. Some of the equipment will arrive in Perth and will make a 1,700 km road trip to site, while several electrical buildings are being manufactured in Adelaide, South Australia and will travel 3,750 km by road to get to site.

What is the status of the LM6000 gas turbines?

All three of the gas turbine packages, including two combined cycle and one simple cycle, have been manufactured and completed all factory testing. The first gas turbine package and generator for the open cycle unit is now on site. The second and third gas turbine packages are currently on a ship and will arrive on site end of November.

What is your role on the South Hedland construction project?

As the project manager, I am accountable to deliver the project safely, on-time and on-budget. My role is to ensure we have the plans and resources in-place to deliver a quality power station so that the Australian team can operate safely and reliably for the next 25+ years.

When will we start hiring for the power station?

Recruiting has already started for a couple of roles but will ramp up in early 2016. We’ll aim to have a portion of the operations and maintenance team on staff to assist our contractor in the commissioning of the open-cycle unit. This unit is scheduled to be completed and in operation by the second half of 2016, so it’s important we have the team in place early next year. The South Hedland plant is expected to be in full operation in 2017.