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Gas powered Plant
Gas powered Plant

John, You are Wrong !

3 comments On the Job

It is said if you are passionate about something you will not be afraid to fight for it. You will take risk to demonstrate your passion for it. 

In fact, if you want to test yourself whether you are really passionate about something, ask yourself if ever you have stood for it against all odds. If the answer is an emphatic yes, that is your passion - protect, preserve and nurture it. If the answer no, then that is not your calling.

 If your intentions are good, fire in your passion will never antagonize others. If fact the rest of the world will enjoy and encourage your aggression. In particular bosses will love it. 

During the final days of commissioning of a gas turbine, at Rotterdam in north Holland, we were discussing how to safely synchronize a new generator. 

Synchronizing a generator the very first time is always a bit of a challenge and we were contemplating of doing a dummy synchronizing before we go for actual on load synchronizing. That way we can take a look at the parameters and be sure that the dummy synchronization was done correctly when the generator and grid voltages were in phase. To do a dummy synchronization, you need to keep the HV isolator of the generator open. This, under the normal interlock logic, will prevent the generator circuit breaker from closing. To allow the GCB to close when the isolator is open, the closing circuit of the GCB needs to be temporarily modified. 

When the gas turbine generator is synchronized, the turbine control system is often programmed to pick up some block load. This means, that soon after, the generator is synchronized, the generator will start delivering some MW load - lets say 40 MW. Under dummy synchronizing conditions, this feature should be kept suppressed, otherwise, the gas turbine will over-speed which is not a desirable thing to happen.

That is why a temporary modification in the DCS should keep this feature defeated. Right after the dummy synchronization, the above two modifications must be normalized and live and on load synchronization should be attempted.

When this proposal was emailed to our engineering office, it could not create the right buzz and was not approved. Clearly no one had the knowledge of or gone through the risk benefit analysis of the task. Wrong or out of phase synchronization during the very fast attempt is not uncommon in the power industry. It results in severe exchange of active and reactive power and creates enormous stresses on the turbine and generator. Good testing and commissioning practice demands that a dummy synchronization should be attempted after creating necessary temporary medications and testing parameters collected during the dummy synchronization should prove beyond any reasonable doubts that the dummy synchronization was in-phase. This enhances the confidence and comfort of the commissioning engineer. 

The mail from the corporate boss that rejected the proposal was on my screen. It was neither aware of the best practice for such a risky job on which the fate of the project was hanging, nor was it respectful of the spirit of doing this test. I was from India working in the NTPC style. The big boss was an American - a long time electrical engineer in this EPC giant of a company. Can I really challenge him to convince him? Or explain and request him?

I wrote a reply- that did not work for me. I wrote a second reply giving more details - was not satisfied. I realized that any reply that does not have the very first sentence as - "John, you are wrong" will not do the work. But that was too much of risk. So I deleted the 4th or the 5th draft reply and went home. I thought over in the night and realized that, sometimes God takes a test of you. He likes to know how much you love what you know. One drop of acid turns the litmus blue. One line of a mail will test the man in the mirror.

I went back to office the next day. Wrote the mail that I wanted to write, starting with those four simple words, and hit the send button.

The response to that mail was the best thing that happened to my professional career. The procedure was widely appreciated and recommended. I developed a special bond with the big man. I don't know about the project, but I certainly felt like a hero.

Last modified onTuesday, 09 August 2016 16:06
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  • It's "John, you are wrong" !

  • Prasad Ji

    I am Jitu (Mahapatra) co-founder of this new concept site.
    I am sorry you are not getting a response to your comment because there is a mix-up and that is why JP may not be able to respond to this. We are correcting the IDs at our end and we will tell you more about the story after this.

    But you are absolutely right, in what you think

  • Yogesh-ji and Prasad-ji ... Thanks for going through the article and glad that you liked it.
    Yes - It was a great experience to take up issues directly on technical front. It gives clarity and at the end it develops a good relationship.

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