Fire-damaged power station resumes supply in record time

Rapid response consolidates relationship with EDF Energy

The challenge

Cottam coal-fired power station has stood proudly in the Lower Trent Valley – also known as Megawatt Valley – in Nottinghamshire since the 1960s. Now owned by EDF Energy, Cottam first started generating in 1969 and, today, supplies 2000 megawatts to National Grid.

Siemens had been working with EDF Energy as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to the power station since 2015 and had developed a successful relationship with the customer. So much so that, in 2016, following an enquiry by EDF Energy, the two companies were in discussions about a new maintenance contract for the power station. It was during these contract negotiations that a major incident occurred

A fire had broken out, catastrophically damaging three panels of the power station’s original, 1960s Reyrolle SA switchboard. Critical equipment associated with the power station’s distribution system was now disabled and EDF Energy was exposed to high-level risk from loss of generation, and in danger of significant financial impact. 

It was here that the customer turned to Siemens to develop an efficient and effective fast-track factory rebuild programme to get the power station supplying National Grid again as soon as possible.

The solution

Siemens response was rapid, and a skilled team was pulled together and deployed to site within 24 hours to start recovery of the critical supply board.

The team was in possession of the relevant historical documentation, which should have meant a quick assessment and refurbishment; however, as they arrived on the scene, it was clear the situation was extremely hazardous. With asbestos in the atmosphere released by the fire, and damaged electrical supplies, first-class health and safety operations had to be applied to ensure the safety of Siemens’ team and local support.

Siemens team members advised on and helped with the careful removal of the contaminated elements of equipment and dispatched to asbestos decontamination suppliers. As a solution to the missing equipment, Siemens quickly sourced an alternative, putting forward a proposal to use fibreboard as a safe replacement for the asbestos arc shoots

To maintain momentum of the speedy refurbishment, EDF Energy chose to induct Siemens’ technicians under its safety rules and issue permits to work, freeing up local resource for deployment elsewhere. Legislation requires that mandatory permits to work are issued when working in a power station and are usually held by the customer. With the permit to work, Siemens was able to isolate the low voltage network and bypass the missing switchboard panels to keep the low voltage board supplied. The same approach was used with the medium voltage network and board, resulting in a speedy recovery. 

Showing monumental commitment and effort, Siemens was able to complete the refurbishment in just 12 weeks, allowing Cottam power station to resume supply to the grid. The solution Siemens had provided had not been easy to achieve: modern-day equivalents for obsolete parts had to be sourced and procured quickly to get the customer back on line. In recognition of this commitment, Siemens was presented with a Customer First award.

The benefits

The key benefit to EDF Energy, along with the project being commissioned on time and in budget, was the return to service of its switchboard with new OEM standard apparatus, making it fit for purpose for another 20 years. 

Mark Gilleard, EC&I Electrical Engineer for EDF Energy praised Siemens for its response: “We were impressed with the speed and flexibility Siemens showed with sourcing and installing the replacement switchgear. It was a tight deadline we were working to, but Siemens understood that and worked well with us to achieve our target.”

The trust developed between Siemens and EDF Energy during this critical project has proved invaluable. It has led directly to EDF Energy placing more work with Siemens, including the overhaul of over one hundred air circuit breakers since 2014, with a further seven planned for 2018.

The concise delivery strategy required for the refurbishment project saw the development of a ‘one team’ approach that included input and commitment from Siemens, EDF Energy and the extended supply chain. The approach has continued to this day, with Siemens understanding that a flexible service enables it to meet the customer’s changing priorities to suit their system running requirement. Siemens adapts to the customers’ requirements and requests by operating as a ‘One Delivery Team’. 

EDF Energy has also benefited from the development of a customer-focused maintenance programme. Under the programme, Siemens provides continual support and high-quality consultancy services to ensure the customer receives the best possible advice about investment in its switchgear.

Eventually, coal-powered power stations will be taken offline, but for now, Siemens adapts to what EDF Energy requires. In terms of its aging equipment; Siemens has been able to give extension of life for next 10 to 15 years. This mutually beneficial relationship has been in place since 2015, and Siemens will continue to go the extra mile long into the future.

We were impressed with the speed and flexibility Siemens showed with sourcing and installing the replacement switchgear.

Contact us

Siemens plc  North Farm Road  Hebburn  Tyne & Wear  NE31 1LX   T: +44 (0) 191 40 5555  E: