Environmental Stewardship – Athens Generating Plant

ACC gearbox drip pans prevent oil release, save time

Athens Generating Plant
Owned by New Athens Generating Company LLC
Operated by NAES Corp 

Challenge.  Each gearbox on the air-cooled condensers (ACC) at this 1080-MW, natural-gas fired facility contains approximately 8 gal of oil (Fig 4). The oil seal on each gearbox can fail without warning, potentially releasing oil into the ACC structure and ultimately reaching ground level where it contaminates the soil (Fig 5).

   Any single-seal failure requires as many as six individuals working up to eight hours to clean up the ACC structure. If any oil reaches ground level, an outside agency must be contacted to perform onsite cleanup and removal of contaminated soil.

   In addition, plant staff must call the NY Dept of Environmental Conservation Spill Hotline to report the release of oil into the environment. Finally, plant personnel are required to take soil samples to ensure that all contaminated soil has been removed from the spill area.

Solution. Plant staff came up with the idea to place a drip pan underneath each of the 54 gearboxes, both to catch any leaking oil and to provide a visual indication of when the gearbox seal needed to be repaired or replaced prior to the seal failing (Figs 6, 7). The 54 drip pans were manufactured and installed by FPI Mechanical Inc, Cohoes, NY. The oil caught in the drip pans is then properly disposed to prevent any environmental impact.

Results. Installing the 54 drip pans saves plant staff considerable time when replacing the gearbox seals, and has averted several gearbox seal failures. In addition to labor cost savings, the drip pans have prevented further environmental impact caused by gearbox oil spills— including costly cleanup efforts and the requisite environmental notifications.