Case Study: Energy Northwest

Solution & Implementation

The project involved evaluating the extent of the 24-inch feedwater discharge isolation valve damage, designing a repair solution, and implementing the solution quickly while the plant remained in operation. This valve, while non-safety related, performs the function of isolating feedwater flow to the reactor during shutdown and lowpower service conditions.

A MAJOR CHALLENGE: The 24-inch feedwater valve experienced a stemdisc separation, was stuck in the closed position and is positioned upside down 30 feet in the air.

Traditional repair options, including removing valve internals and valve replacements, would have required a plant shutdown to implement. Furthermore, on-line repair options, without protection or isolation from the pressure boundary, presented unacceptable industrial safety hazards due to the system characteristics (high temperature, high pressure, complex rigging, etc.). The feedwater system utilizes a dual loop flow path with each loop being able to maintain 65 percent reactor power. Once the valve was opened, the plant could ramp up over the following day to 100 percent power.

Before the actual work was performed, Furmanite designed a mock-up of the valve and the fixture was tested to ensure the required force could be applied safely and that rigging and access could be assessed in a controlled manner.

Then the team moved to the actual valve location. To solve the issue, Furmanite designed a specialty fixture to allow insertion of two push rods through the body of the valve, applying 300,000-lbs of force on the valve gate. The first step in the procedure was to hot tap two holes in the valve body perfectly aligned with either side of the valve gate. There was 3/32-inch clearance between the stellite seat and the edge of each push rod. This was performed using a pre-drill operation and a specially designed series of drill bits to eliminate the introduction of foreign material in the system.

Once the pre-drill operation was complete and a remaining half-inch wall was left before breakthrough into the live system, the fixture was mounted to the valve with a customized alignment system that allowed the previously drilled holes to align with the three-inch valves and launch a mechanism that acted as a pressure boundary. Prior to breaching, a pilot hole was drilled into the remaining valve body material to depressurize the valve cavity. Once the valve cavity was depressurized and once foreign material (FM) recovery methods were finalized (based on whether the cavity was pressurized or not), the final drilling operation could then be executed.

The breakthrough was carried out with a drill type that would create chips smaller than the critical size identified by Energy Northwest and would also allow for extraction via the nitrogen inject and flushing method. Once this was complete, bolt-tensioning equipment was used to apply even force on a large steel plate known as the “dog bone” because of its configuration. The force applied to the “dog bone” was transferred to two push rods inserted in the hot tapped holes. The force was slowly applied while simultaneously heating the valve seat to 450 degrees through the use of heat treatment equipment. When the valve seat expanded and sufficient force was applied, the valve gate was guided to the fully open position.


The project was completed in less than three weeks, saving the plant lost dollars in operations and assuring continuous service to its customers. The procedure has been recorded by the customer for future reference.

Not only was the valve successfully opened, another critical goal was met: the Furmanite team conducted the job with minimal FM introduction. This was of utmost importance to Energy Northwest as particles in length of 0.2 to 0.4 inches can be detrimental to the reactor fuel integrity. As such, traditional drill bits were utilized to drill down to the valve body calculated minimum wall (half-inch remaining), allowing all FM to be removed prior to breaching the valve body. Drilling then transitioned to a hole saw to ensure the resulting FM was limited to a halft-inch thick, two-and-a-half-inch wide coupon and acceptable chip sizes. Due to adequate seating conditions on the 24-inch valve, there was little pressure to vent so the Furmanite team was able to clear the cavity of remaining FM before pressing into the seat with a customized anti-skid device that eliminated the drilling of the gate and further eliminated any additional FM from entering the system.

The Team

A seven-person crew consisting of project managers, engineers and cross-trained service line specialists, working 24/7 in two shifts, accomplished the total project in just under 21 days.

The short time frame was possible because of Furmanite’s capability to combine engineering, manufacturing and service line expertise through its unique cross-training program. Unparalleled in the industry, Furmanite provides continuous training and certification of service line specialists who are crossed-trained to perform multiple specialty mechanical services.

The benefit to our customers: lean efficiencies in project time, project cost and number of people needed to perform tasks. Fewer technicians required on a job site means less congestion in work spaces, less instruction and job handoff, and reduced standby time. The same crew moved seamlessly from one mechanical operation to the next shortening the time needed to complete the project.

      “I want to express how proud I am of this team. Our departments worked night and day with Furmanite to design, fabricate, test, modify and finally install the big rig. This is a great example of what it looks like when teamwork and a commitment to excellence in performance            come together. My thanks to all of you for your dedication and perseverance for seeing this through to its successful end.”

       Brad Sawatzke

       Chief Operating Officer, Energy Northwest

Case Study: Energy Northwest

Furmanite conducts emergency valve repair preventing plant shutdown at Energy Northwest

CUSTOMER: Energy Northwest

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Energy Northwest, located north of Richland, Wash., owns and operates the only commercial nuclear energy facility in the northwest. It is a joint action agency, comprised of 27 public power member utilities from across the state, and serves more than 1.5 million ratepayers with reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy to power more than a million homes each year.

Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station, a boiling water nuclear reactor plant that generates approximately 1,190 megawatts of electricity, is the third largest power generator in the state, producing about 10 percent of Washington state’s power. As a non-carbon emitting baseload resource, it is crucial to prevent unplanned shutdowns of the plant so that it can deliver continuous power production for the region. In July 2015, a feedwater valve experienced a stem-disc separation, leaving the valve in the closed position. If the valve could not be opened while online, the plant would need to shut down causing severe disruption of energy service and costing untold millions of dollars.

Energy Northwest contacted Furmanite for immediate repair services.

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