Why Invest in Training and Documentation for Plants Scheduled for Retirement?

The Problem

Over the last ten years, many of coal-fired power plants have been shut down, and many more are scheduled for “retirement.” The common scenario for coal-fired power plant retirements starts with rumors as management studies options given regulatory pressures and competition from gas-fired power plants. After management makes decisions, there is announcement of plans for retirement that often has a plant retirement date that is years in the future.

As soon as rumors of plant retirement start, job uncertainty causes plant staff to start looking for new jobs, and the losses of staff who leave for new jobs accelerate when retirement plants are finalized. Typically, the people who leave first are the “best and brightest,” since they are commonly the most qualified and ambitious people. When these people leave, hundreds of years of plant knowledge and skill leave with them. Management often works to reduce this loss by providing financial incentives for staff to stay on until plant retirement, but those efforts commonly have mixed success.

The Consequences

Often, in spite of efforts to maintain adequate staffing, plants scheduled for retirement wind up with a reduced staff, and the staff that remains is often relatively inexperienced and lacking in knowledge and skills needed for optimum plant operations and maintenance. The result of this staffing issue is reduced plant performance as indicated in key performance indicators such as increased EFOR (equivalent forced outage rates), which has a significant economic penalty. Overtime costs often increase as well. More alarming than the economic consequences of poor plant staffing is impact on safety. The possibility of a catastrophic accident increases when an overworked, inexperienced staff struggles to keep the plant in operation.

The Solution

The best way to address the needs of the reduced plant staff with limited knowledge and skills is to provide formalized training. The foundation of that training is a combination of approved procedures and current plant documentation. Unfortunately many of these plants that are being retired are smaller and older plants that have inadequate procedures and documentation, and little or nothing in the way of current training programs for operations and maintenance personnel.

FCS can help plants scheduled for retirement to bridge the gap and help assure that coal-fired power plants scheduled for retirement remain safe places to work while minimizing the economic impacts of an impending power plant retirement.