Sometimes a chance conversation can lead to amazing things. Just ask EnergyAustralia’s Michael Hutchinson, who in 2021 was talking with Peter Trauner, a friend and former SECV colleague now working for Siemens. Little did he know that this would lead to a remarkable journey of global collaboration, innovation and sustainability.
The spark of an idea
While they were chatting, Michael mentioned EnergyAustralia’s Jeeralang B power station in the Latrobe Valley. It was approaching 5000 starts, which meant it was coming to the end of its life. Peter said he'd heard that the Wilmersdorf power station in Berlin, Germany was being demolished. And because he knew Jeeralang from his SECV days he knew the two plants were similar. An idea struck — what if they could salvage parts from Wilmersdorf and bring them over to Australia to breathe new life into Jeeralang?
Saving rather than scrapping
Peter put Michael and his EnergyAustralia colleague, Dale Hogarth, in contact with Vattenfall, the owner of Wilmersdorf power station. But their focus was on decommissioning the plant.
Undeterred, Michael and Dale turned to plan B and contacted Gregor Scherleitner from PORR, the company contracted to demolish Wilmersdorf. PORR, a company usually associated with construction and demolition, embraced the idea of repurposing the gas turbines rather than scrapping them. They set about working with EnergyAustralia, Vattenfall and Siemens to achieve this.
A rescue mission
PORR embarked on carefully dismantling a range of essential parts from Wilmersdorf overseen by Siemens, who acted as EnergyAustralia’s technical advisor. Gas turbine rotors, casings, blades, and an array of other parts that were impossible to find new were carefully salvaged. Some parts were then sent to Italy and Thailand for specialist refurbishment, ensuring that the components, otherwise destined for scrap, received a new lease on life.
The remainder of these precious parts have made their way by ship to Australia. Jeeralang are excitedly opening the crates like a present at Christmas to catalog and store in a new purpose-built storage shed.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Collaboration between EnergyAustralia, PORR and Siemens made this boundary-pushing initiative possible.
At EnergyAustralia, people across the business, including engineers, lawyers, and procurement specialists, worked together. The project was often challenging, involving late-night meetings across time zones, language barriers, and contracts with unconventional terms drafted in both English and German.
Michael said, "I'm genuinely proud that instead of consigning these parts to scrap, we've given them a new lease on life in Australia. Importantly with the help of these components, Jeeralang will continue its crucial role, stepping up when energy demand surges and providing a bridge as we transition away from coal and become more dependent on renewable energy and storage. The collaboration and innovation of the combined Energy Australia, PORR and Siemens team working on this project has been world class."
But wait, there's more!
Energised by their success, EnergyAustralia's newfound collaborators at PORR revealed another demolition project on the horizon—the Moabit power station in Germany. The two companies are now working together to do it all again, this time securing parts for the Hallett power station in South Australia. That will make two Australian gas-fired power stations, given an extended life thanks to parts recycled from across the world.
It’s incredible where that chance conversation lead.