St Nicholas Cogeneration Plant

The St. Nicholas Cogeneration plant was constructed in 1989 to convert the culm bank from the long abandoned St. Nick Breaker. This is done by removing the culm with large earth movers and dumping it onto conveyors going to the small breaker. This small breaker cleans the culm and separates the coal from rock. It also removes large pieces of rock and discards them to a pile outside. Then the culm is sent to the plant on a conveyor that is almost a mile long at a rate of 425 tons per hour. Upon reaching the plant the culm is pulverized to ash and sent through a network of pipes until it is injected into the furnace at a rate of 150 tons per hour. This furnace has a temperature on average of 1,575 degrees. It heats water brought to the plant from several sources. About 30% of this water is from the abandoned Maple Hill shaft. The rest is brought from nearby dams. The mine water is passed through several filters until it is as good, or better than tap water. This water is passed into a boiler at 1600 gallons per minute heated by the furnace and turned into steam. This steam passes through pipes to reach the turbine-generator which creates about 92 megawatts of power. 12 megawatts comes back to power the plant and the rest is sold to power companies. This means that the plant is completely self-running. There is 63,000 gallons of water per minute pumped throughout the plant for cooling, most of it is for condensing the steam that went through the turbine turning it back into water so it can go back into the boiler. There are about 60 employees at the plant.

Harrison Kranch who is a control room operator invited Chris to the plant for a tour. This is what He had to say about the trip,

"When Carissa and I went to the St Nick breaker for the second time we saw this plant from the culm bank while taking pics of the breaker. I thought it was pretty cool to see something like this in action but never thought months later I would be going on a tour inside! I met Har on a Yahoo group for anthracite discussion. He told me of his interest on investigating abandoned mines in the Mahanoy city area. After much discussion and a few trips down there with him he informed me of his position at the plant and offered a tour. Now I couldn't give up this opportunity! So one real cold afternoon I headed down for my adventure. Upon reaching the cogen plant with Har, I couldn't believe the size. It's much bigger close up. There were many things to see. First we went to the locker room to get my hard hat and safety glasses. After that we went off to the water treatment plant to see the high velocity water pumps and related plumbing. Har told me of a time when one of the pipes burst and there was 3 feet of water in the room within a matter of seconds. Next we went into the main plant to see many conveyors and the furnace. There were pipes all over of very large diameter. Har then showed me a sight glass where you can monitor the inside of the furnace. This was one of my favorite parts. After the main plant we drove along the almost-mile-long conveyor to the small breaker at the culm bank. The breaker was my favorite part. There are conveyors moving culm, or "dirt", as referred to by the workers. The dirt then moves into crushers and separators just as it did 100 years ago. The coal is then separated and washed before it is sent to the plant. This was the conclusion of my tour so we went back to the locker room to drop off the safety equipment. Now that I'm in the mood, lets go find some mines Har." -Chris

© 2005 Underground Miners