Berezovsky fire, 3 years on

17 May 2019

More than three years on from the February 2016 fire in the boiler house of Berezovsky 3, Russia’s only 800 MW supercritical coal fired plant, Uniper and Unipro, its Russian subsidiary, hope to have the unit back on line, and generating revenue, in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Berezovsky 3 fire was caused by ignition of fuel oil from leaking pipework coming into contact with hot surfaces. The heavy fuel oil (‘mazut’) is employed for start-up of the lignite fuelled facility.

The fire was discovered on 1 February 2016 at 7.41 am. It was brought under control by 10 am thanks to the efforts of the facility fire brigade, assisted by firefighters from the nearby towns of Sharypovo and Nazarovo (110 firefighters in total). There were no injuries.

In August 2016, Unipro announced that restoring the severely damaged unit would take until 2018, and would cost 25 billion roubles, or about $400 million. Some slippage in a project of this magnitude and complexity is pretty much inevitable. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the fire it was not entirely clear what the extent of the damage was or that rebuild was feasible. It was necessary to make a decision on the basis of incomplete information. It was decided to repair the unit but Uniper and Unipro found themselves in uncharted territory as repairing a boiler house that has suffered this amount of damage was unprecedented. Nobody knew the sequence of tasks to be undertaken, how to approach the project, or how much it would cost, said Maxim Shirokov, Unipro CEO.

A plan was elaborated, with a first stage consisting of repair and strengthening of the building structures, followed by dismantling of the boiler, removal of damaged and undamaged components and reassembly. It proved to be a huge and very challenging undertaking, with the need to co-ordinate simultaneous activities at different heights as well as implementation of upgraded fire prevention measures, including “fire coating” requirements and fireproofing of hot surfaces and critical structures, as well as installation of improved sprinklers and water misting systems.

The good news was that the plant was insured and a successful claim made.

The Berezovsky power station, consisting of three adjacent 800 MW units, is located in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, close to large metal producers, and accounts for 5% of Siberia’s electricity and some 15% of Kasnoyarsk’s. It is relatively young by Russian standards. Units 1 and 2 were commissioned in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Construction of unit 3 started in May 2011 and it entered operation in 2015 – so at the time of the fire it was virtually a new plant.

Most of the fuel supply is delivered directly to the power station from the Berezovsky lignite deposits of the Kansko-Achinskiy basin via two 14 km long open conveyor belts.

Shortly after the start-up of units 1 and 2 they were downrated to 2 x 700 MW, due to extensive slagging of boiler heating surfaces arising from the high ash content of the Berezovsky lignite. E.ON acquired the plant in 2007 and Iin 2009, E.ON Russia JSC launched a project aimed to restore the installed capacity to the targeted 1600 MW. This was achieved at unit 2 in 2010 and at unit 1 in 2011.

Concurrently with construction of unit 3 a project was undertaken to switch the units to dry ash removal. 

Location of unit 3. Picture shows plant post fire, and during boiler rebuild
Boiler rebuild underway
Berezovsky power plant

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