First fire-up achieved at Great Island CCGT

Gary Robinson, Mechanical Engineer at SSE’s Engineering Centre (left), John Crowley, SSE Engineering Manager (right) and the rest of SSE’s commissioning engineering team in the control room following the successful first fire-up and syncrhonisation of the new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power station being built at Great Island, Co. Wexford. 

SSE’s new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power station being built at Great Island, Co. Wexford, has reached a major milestone in the last week with the gas turbine having been successfully fired up and synchronised to the grid for the very first time.

This marks the completion of the construction activities at the 460MW CCGT site and the start of the commissioning activities that will prove the new power station's capabilities before it is formally handed over to SSE in the coming months. SSE has recruited around 40 staff mostly from Wexford and surrounding counties who will operate the new plant when it becomes fully operational.

The new Great Island clean gas power plant utilises CCGT technology from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries which comprises a gas turbine and steam turbine.During this week’s first fire-up process, gas was combined with air and ignited through a combustion process to rotate the gas turbine. The waste heat generated from this process was used to convert water into high pressure steam which was then used to rotate the steam turbine. Any residual steam is converted back into water and recycled through the system.  The two turbines combined are attached to a generator via a single shaft which generates the electricity that will be output. Synchronisation of the turbine marks the first export of electricity from the power station to the national grid. 

Achievement of first fire-up and synchronisation is the culmination of two years' hard work by the SSE project team, led by Head of Construction Charlie Cryans, and the many hundreds of SSE staff and contractors that have been employed on the site since construction work started.

Rhys Stanwix, Director of Thermal Development said: "This is a very major milestone for the project and one that everyone in SSE who has contributed can be justly proud of. We are now entering the final stages of proving the power station's systems and overall performance before receiving the plant from our contractors, where it will form a key part of our energy portfolio in Ireland for many years to come."

Charlie Cryans, Head of Construction, said: “All of us in the SSE project team are delighted with this achievement. A huge amount of complex planning and activity has been undertaken in recent weeks to test the CCGT systems and processes in advance of the first-firing of the gas turbine. As a team we’re all extremely proud that we’ve achieved this latest milestone and that we’re delivering this major construction project on time, on budget and to the highest safety and environmental standards in line with SSE’s core values of Safety, Excellence and Teamwork.”

At its peak over 1200 contractors were employed at the Great Island construction site in the delivery of the project, over 80% of whom were Irish and local to the South-East of Ireland, and today around 300 contractors are still employed on site. Over 2 million man hours have been deployed so far in the construction of the project.

The Great Island CCGT is one of the largest infrastructural projects currently under construction on the island of Ireland and is the single largest capital project in power generation that SSE is currently developing in either the UK or Ireland. The project includes the delivery of a 41km industrial-grade gas pipeline from Bawnlusk, Co. Kilkenny, through Gaslink and Bord Gais Networks, to Great Island. This is delivering major strategic infrastructure into the heart of Ireland’s South East for the first time. While this gas pipeline will be used to fuel the CCGT power station it has been purposely over-sized to accommodate regional development in the future and is expected to be a significant enabler for future industrial development in the South East.

The natural gas CCGT power plant will generate enough greener energy to power the equivalent of half a million Irish homes of SSE Airtricity customers. When completed it will be Ireland’s cleanest, most efficient and reliable gas power plant on the Irish national grid. The commissioning of the plant will significantly decarbonise electricity generation in the all-island Single Electricity Market as it will result in the decommissioning of the existing 240MW heavy fuel oil plant at Great Island. 

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