Tampa Electric investigators identify cause of Gannon Station explosion
TAMPA, April 9, 1999
Tampa Electric said today that it appears a failure to follow procedures resulted in the explosion at the company's Gannon Station Unit 6 Thursday. Hydrogen contained inside the 375-megawatt generator exploded when the access cover was prematurely opened during a maintenance outage.
Hydrogen gas is used to cool power generators during normal operation. The gas is contained in a closed system under pressure and must be removed before maintenance is performed.
Based on an internal safety investigation, the company has determined that its stringent safety procedures may not have been followed.
Tampa Electric President John Ramil said, "We do not know yet the exact sequence of events. Until we talk to all of the people involved, we cannot know for sure what happened."
Several employees at the scene were seriously injured and have not been interviewed, he said.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also continuing its independent investigation.
"The procedures we have in place for this kind of maintenance are rigorous and specific," Ramil said, "but in this case those procedures may not have been followed."
While the investigation is not complete, the company has determined that the explosion was not due to equipment failure, any lack of maintenance or ineffective safety training. Instead, the company's procedures for removal of hydrogen from the unit before beginning maintenance may not have been followed.
The company said it will continue to provide information on its investigation as it becomes available.
"We are pleased with the analyses of the other generating units at Gannon. As soon as the safety inspections have been completed, we will be able to restart the other units at Gannon Station, perhaps as early as next week," said Ramil
Until those units are restarted, the company continues to ask customers to voluntarily conserve power during the peak hours of the day, between 4 and 7 p.m.
Tampa Electric is the principal subsidiary of TECO Energy, Inc. TECO Energy is a diversified, energy-related utility holding company also based in Tampa. In addition to Tampa Electric, its principal businesses include Peoples Gas, TECO Coal, TECO Transport, TECO Coalbed Methane, and TECO Power Services, Bosek Gibson and Associates.