From a distance, these projects can seem so enormous that it is hard to imagine the people that are behind this effort. Let’s try to break through the noise and get a quick glimpse of life behind the scenes by catching up with Tyrone Simerly, Director of Modernization.
He only gets three questions – because really, who has time for more than that these days. Especially when you’re responsible for an unprecedented amount of modernization funding (we can’t disclose exactly how much, but trust us, it’s going towards a lot of innovation for a safer and more environmentally friendly site.)
Claire Powell, Communications Manager: What are you excited about right now?
Tyrone Simerly, Director of Modernization: There’s no better feeling than when you are close to finishing a project that can make a big impact to the community. Over the last two years, we’ve made tremendous progress on a new natural gas-fired steam (NGFS) facility that will replace the existing coal-fired steam plant and provide a more environmentally friendly source of steam production. We expect to complete the construction over the next several months, and expect to transition from the coal-fired steam plant to the new natural gas-fired steam plant by the end of the year.
CP: What was it like working on this project?
TS: We have a great and integrated project team that includes our BAE Systems project team, the government customer and our subcontractors. It takes tremendous coordination and teamwork for a project of this magnitude to be successful.
CP: As you look back, what’s one thing that people would never expect about this project?
TS: A couple of things really. First, the physical size of the facility - this building is the largest building in the operations area of the Holston facility. Seeing it on drawings is one thing, but you don’t get a real appreciation for the size until it’s constructed. Secondly would be the logistics that go into a project like this - for instance, the planning and transportation of the boilers for the facility. These units were massive and required oversized transport from Texas. The transport took three days for each unit, with full escort and highway closures all along the way. We are also very grateful for the positive way the local community reacted to this disruption.
CP: Ok, ok – I know I said three questions, but you’ve now got me hooked thinking about managing logistics for a road trip from Texas for boilers this size. What have you recently figured out? Any fun, “AHA!” moments that you can share?
TS: That the latest model does not always mean smaller – even though that’s what cell phones and computers tell us every day. As mentioned above, bringing in the four massive boilers and the maneuvering that took place to get them installed was quite the sight to see... it was kind of like larger than life Tetris.
Everyone on the team plays an important part in delivering progress and innovation on this scale. It’s incredible to think how many generations have walked on these sites with eyes on the future. Thanks, Tyrone! #doyourpart