Power Engineering @ Nova Scotia Power Generation Station, Point Tupper
I did my work placement at the Point Tupper Generating Station in Port Hawkesbury. This is one of four coal-fired power plants in Nova Scotia: Lingan, Point Aconi, Point Tupper and Trenton run by Nova Scotia Power. The Point Tupper Thermal Generating Station is a 150 MW Canadian electrical generating station opened in 1973 by then-provincial Crown corporation Nova Scotia Power Corporation . It was originally designed to burn oil, later coal. As of 2013, it also burns wood chip based bio-fuel. Here are a few more facts related to the Point Tupper plant:
There are many people who work at this station in with different occupations, such as mechanics, welders, electricians, chemists, and numerous others. The people I was doing my work placement with were all power engineers. I chose to do my co-op here because I have applied to take power engineering next year at NSCC. This experience would give me a taste of what my future career would be like. During my co-op, I had to do 12 hr shift work. In fact, my first shift was a 12 hr back shift. It was good to see whether I would be able to handle it or not. It was tough to be thrown into the fire, but I proved victorious.
While I was doing my co-op, I mostly shadowed the same power engineer and as a result; I learned what you really do as a Power Engineer. I observed and was exposed a lot of things the power engineers did throughout the day. Their routine included monitoring gauges and making sure machines werenít overheating or rotating too fast. You also have to check the oil levels, and make sure that there are no holes or cracks in the insulation. During the weekdays, the power engineers had to do permits which included locking and tagging out machines and equipment for the mechanics and electricians to fix. In the control room there was always one person on the panel. This person could remotely start and stop almost any machine in the plant, and if anything was wrong with the machines, an alarm would go off and they would be notified immediately. Whoever was on panel was also in charge of telling people on the floor if anything was wrong and where it went wrong. Something that impressed me was to see how much teamwork it really takes to keep the plant running.
I learned so much from co-op; everywhere I went, the person I was with would explain how the machine would work and what they did. It was so much information at once it was hard to take it all in and kind of mind-blowing in a way. I learned how each step worked in the process to make power. I learned how all the coal is sent through these funnels into these massive crushers which crush the coal into a fine powder. The coal is then blown to one of the four boilers where it is ignited and gives off heat which is converted to energy. I learned how important it is for each of these machines to be working and how important it is to get rid of all the fly ash, used coal, as to not cause any unwanted explosions and blockage. We explored basically every inch of the Generating Station and I got to see every machine. What I found interesting was how many backups they had for each machine, so no matter what, if something really breaks down, then it will be replaced by another machine instantly. Through my co-op, I made a few connections like with Jude Rankin, the superintendent at Point Tupper, and Mike Murray, the supervisor of the shift I was working on. They were so accommodating.
I found it hard to understand every single thing that the person I was with was trying to explain. There was so much to take in, but Iím sure over time I will be able to grasp it all and be able to follow along. I did learn some things about myself, I could do the backshifts, and I can handle the long periods of time on my feet. I discovered that I did enjoy the group aspect of it, by being on the same shift of workers every time; I really found that the people grew on me and I was comfortable with them. I didnít necessarily enjoy the dust and the heat in some places, but that was a small price to pay for the rewards in a place like this.
In some ways power engineering was what I thought it was going to be and in some ways it wasnít. I knew there was going to be a lot of sitting around watching dials and gauges and making sure that nothing is out of the ordinary. I expected it to be a mentally challenging job that really made you think. What I didnít realize how much there is to take in, and how you have to understand almost every aspect of the job to really completely know what youíre doing. After taking all that in and really thinking about it, I do think this is the exact job I want to do. I like the routine aspect of it, but I also like the challenging problem solving aspect of it. If there is a problem at the plant you and your fellow co-workers are the only ones coming to fix it and you have to figure out how. I like the schedule of having so many days on and then so many days off. I find it gives you space to do whatever you want but once you start working youíre into it and thatís all you have to focus on. I think I could be a great power engineer and excel at my trade, once I get a grip on everything that you have to learn throughout the course.
The co-op experience has met my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. It was also a little hard to balance the co-op while still taking academic courses, but it was worth it. The best part of the co-op would probably be getting a step-up on next year by learning how a lot of the machines that I would be working with work, and what the job consists of. What I didnít enjoy about my co-op would probably be the whole missing school part of it. I understand that a lot of people taking it have frees for most of their other courses, but with me having math and physics, I found it a little challenging to keep on top of both co-op and school.
I definitely think that co-op has helped me with my educational and work plans. It has given me knowledge for what I will be doing next year, which will help me tremendously, Iím sure. It has also helped to really settle my mind in my decision to make power engineering my chosen path in life. It has done that by showing me what I would be doing and it really looks like something I would enjoy.
March 15, 2015
Submitted by: Little Johnny