Power Engineers.The Unsung Heroes.
Power Engineers.The Unsung Heroes.

Power Engineers.The Unsung Heroes.

Its 2 am in the night. A group of engineers are looking intently on the monitors in front of them. Their faces, tense. Everything must go according to the procedure. No deviations. No mistakes allowed. The plant is being started, technically called a light up and should be done according to the schedule. The shift in charge is yelling instructions. There is constant ringing of the desk phones. To an outsider it is utter chaos.

               Power engineers are one of the most underappreciated engineers. Barely anyone outside the industry ever hears of them. The dedication and work they do goes unnoticed.

               In a power plant there are various departments like operation, Control and Instrumentation, Maintenance, Chemistry etc. A plant runs with the cooperation of all the departments. But it is the operation Department which oversees the day to day running of the plant. Operation engineers work in shifts. There are three shifts including night shifts. That in itself is quite difficult for the human body to adapt. Then there is the matter of responsibility of running huge machines like turbines, pumps and compressors. The biggest pump, for example, in a 600MW unit is a Boiler Feed Pump which is a 12MW machine. That means, it is of the same power as of 150 hatchback cars of 100Horsepower.Also it is equal to the power capacity of 6 locomotive engines. One can imagine the might of this machine and the responsibility attached to running it.

    With huge machines come maintenance problems. Giving permission, technically called a permit, to other Departments for resolving issues is a very critical task. The permit giver who is an Operation engineer must ensure that the concerned machine is isolated and won’t affect other machines, processes and most importantly the personnel involved in the maintenance. Apart from all these there are hundreds of parameters to keep an eye on. The operation engineer should know the range of these parameters, he/she should know what is an abnormal value, at what value the machine stops (technically called a trip) and at what value it is harmful for the machine.

    Running a plant of 600MW is no small task. If the plant trips then 600MW is being suddenly removed from the grid. A grid is nothing but a network of power generators and consumers of electricity. So when 600MW is suddenly removed the whole grid is shaken up. So utmost care has to be taken to avoid tripping of a running plant.

  As can be seen from the above examples Operation Engineers have a very responsible job and it involves split second decision making. They deserve much more recognition than what the society gives them.

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