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Turning Back the Tides of a Truly Super Storm

15 spr sandy 1After Hurricane Sandy, large portions of Manhattan were without electricitySuperstorm Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, 2012 on the eastern seaboard of the United States, resulting in unprecedented flooding in the New York City metropolitan area. Flood levels zoomed past the previous record of 10 feet in the southern portion of Manhattan to reach 14 feet, and wave heights in New York Harbor were measured as high as 32 feet.

Heavy damage was sustained along the coastline and waterways, resulting in the loss of homes and businesses for tens of thousands of people. The facilities located along the coast lines of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn that create in-city electric and steam generation supporting the city were damaged by the tidal surge.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Plant (BNYCP) was one of the worst hit. Critical plant infrastructure, including over 100 valves and associated instrumentation, was submersed under 13 feet of water during and after the storm. These critical valve assets had to be repaired or replaced in a safe and timely manner so the facility could be restarted to meet the energy needs of BNYCP’s customers.


Located on the shoreline of Brooklyn in an industrial complex site where the U.S. Navy built warships for over 150 years (shipbuilding moved to lower cost areas in the 1960s), BNYCP began commercial plant operations on Nov. 1, 1996. The facility consists of two combustion turbines with two heat recovery steam generators, which supply two steam turbines and have the capacity to produce 300 mega­watts (MW) of electricity or 1 million pounds per hour (lbs/hr) of steam. Normal plant energy output is 220 MW for two electricity customers and between 550,000 lbs/hr to 800,000 lbs/hr steam for three steam customers.

BNYCP preparation for the storm began in earnest many days prior to Superstorm Sandy’s landfall and included flood gate installations, strategic sandbag placement and emergency supply stockpiling. These plans were made for withstanding and riding out the storm, but no one anticipated the tidal surge and ensuing destruction the storm would bring. To protect critical infrastructure, the BNYCP was shut down the day before Sandy hit. The facility was evacuated of personnel except for 15 management and key craft people.

15 spr sandy 3An inside exterior door of the BNYCP facility is protected by a flood gate on the exterior of a door during the storm surge.When the storm surge hit, the brackish water of the East River quickly rose above the established flood protection elevation height, overtaking all flood barriers, and compromising the facility. At that time, all electrical feed to the station was disconnected for the safety of plant personnel, leaving the facility in total darkness and without power. As could be expected, the lower elevations of the facility were hardest hit by the storm water, resulting in significant damage to equipment such as gas compressors, air compressors, a demineralization plant, continuous emissions monitoring shelters, switchgears, boiler feed pumps, control valves, automated valves and instruments.

BNYCP personnel immediately recognized the need to rely on their partner distributors, suppliers and consultants to recover from the storm as safely and efficiently as possible. Personnel made contact with the many contractors and professionals required to make the site safe, repair the critical plant assets and start up the facility.

Expediency was of the essence because BNYCP is the largest non-utility generator of steam supplying the steam distribution system for New York City. The fall season also was quickly transitioning to the colder days of winter, which meant increased demand for steam for residential and commercial heating. For valve recovery needs, BNYCP chose Control Associates in nearby Allendale, NJ as a primary valve recovery contractor.


The valve recovery team initiated triage at the site immediately. Because the Gulf Coast region is prone to storm and flooding events, the team reached out to resources in that region for insight and guidance, recovery plan development and execution strategies. The team developed and implemented the following plan:

It assigned dedicated resources to the BNYCP recovery event. Although this seems a simplistic step, it was complicated by the fact that dozens of other facilities in the New York City metropolitan area, including other power plants, refineries, gas utilities, terminals and industrial HVAC accounts, required valve and instrument services for their recovery efforts at the same time as BNYCP.

15 spr sandy 2Control Valve Technician Eric Connors performs control valve diagnostics.To ensure the crisis at BNYCP received priority, the dedicated team included an on-site project manager to keep recovery on time and budget, an off-site sales engineer for valve sizing/selection and order processing, four on-site technicians for on-site repairs and replacements, off-site depot repair technicians, an off-site account manager to manage commercial and contractual aspects of the recovery, and numerous off-site administrative personnel.

The team kicked-off the recovery effort by developing a scope of work marked by tag number and locations for valve repair and/or replacement. They ranked criticality of each tag number based on the function of the valve application and the lead time for parts to repair in situ or to replace.

Over 120 control valves and air automated block valves were either repaired or replaced during the recovery effort (about one-third were replaced and two-thirds repaired). This included replacing critical high-, intermediate- and low-pressure drum level control valves that had anti-cavitation trim on both units. Repairs were made both on site at BNYCP and at the Burlington, NJ repair depot, depending on scope, complexity and logistics (e.g., air and power availability, safe access).

It leveraged multiple resources for sourcing parts and new valve replacement assemblies, including traditional control valve manufacturing facilities in Marshalltown, IA and Sherman, TX; local depot repair services in Burlington, NJ; and remanufactured valve assemblies in Burlington, NJ and Gonzalez, LA. Tapping into the company’s vast manufacturing and repair network enabled the team to compress the typical months-long lead times to less than two weeks for most valve assemblies, including the critical drum level control valves with anti-cavitation trim.

Communications were daily through hard scheduled cadence calls with key project personnel. This was to track progress, control work flow documents (time sheets, work orders, change orders, invoicing, valve serial card management), and identify and rectify on-site logistical issues (power sources for lighting/tools, compressed air for valve testing, scaffolding for valve accessibility, securing safe access to the tag locations for repair or replacement activities). Daily communication also expedited sub-suppliers, and helped to coordinate with other trades and contractors at the station. The goal of every cadence call was to remain committed to meeting the customer’s startup date.

The team conducted startup and commissioning of repaired and replaced valve assets. The scope included valve instrument calibrations, “as-left” diagnostics for valves with smart positioners, and loop checks on all valve analog loops back to plant distributed control systems (with tuning as required). Support for the team in this area included staffing personnel on site and on standby 24-hours, seven days a week at critical times during startup to respond to and rectify valve issues immediately. About 10% of the valves required additional tuning and/or repair during the startup sequence.

The team also reviewed recovery performance with BNYCP after the startup was completed and plant operations returned to near normal to ensure the work scope was met and customer expectations were exceeded.

As with most complex power plant outages (whether it’s a planned outage, an event caused by equipment malfunction or an event that is unanticipated and unimaginable such as this storm), valve recovery execution was successful by sticking to five C’s: Always think like the ­Customer, always plan for Contingency, always Communicate, always Coordinate, and always Complete tasks in a safe and timely manner.

By planning the work, identifying and overcoming obstacles to success, and managing and communicating BNYCP expectations while maintaining safety as the number one priority, the plant was successfully restarted on time, a significant achievement considering the challenges Superstorm Sandy left in her wake.

Paul Bogdan served as project manager for the BNYCP Recovery Project. He is currently the business development manager of Reliability Solutions at Control Associates, Inc., Allendale, NJ. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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