The 1st March 2012 is a date that will stay with me for a long time. It started like any other on my shift at Shoreham (near Brighton), one of our gas-fired power stations that I have worked at since opening in 2000.
As I started my night shift at 18:30 everything was pretty much routine with the plant being prepared for a restart following a six-day outage. There were four of us on the night shift, myself, Richard Neill, Mark James and Dave Burgess. Colin Dobson (Production Manager) and Jason Richardson (Mechanical Team Leader) were also on site waiting until the gas compressor had been test run.
While Richard, Jason and Mark went over to the compressor building to carry out final checks and to start the machine, I was in the control room with Colin, while Dave Burgess was checking the HP gas compound at the other end of the site.
At around 20:30 the gas compressor was started. Jason and Mark were inside the building ready to make adjustments. About 15 seconds after the machine started it tripped and the fire alarms went off in the compressor building. Mark contacted us on the radio telling us to evacuate. Colin set off the site evacuation alarm and I tripped our remote gas station emergency shut off valves which are several miles away from the station. We then made our way out of the building.
On my way out I realised that the pipeline would still be feeding gas into the compressor building, which could be disastrous if the machine had developed a leak. I quickly shut the site incoming valve. I then went into the switch room and turned off the power supply to the shut off and vent valves to allow them to be operated manually. After that I headed to the gas compound at the other end of the site from the compressor building and depressurised the pipe.
Finally I went to the muster point where thankfully everybody was accounted for. The fire service soon arrived and the rest of the night was spent providing them with information and assistance until the fire was eventually extinguished.
It’s amazing how all the training and emergency planning pays off when there is a real life incident. Afterwards my station manager Gary Murray said “As a plant manger it is inevitable that at some stage you will be involved in a major incident. When it happens you hope that all the experience knowledge and training within your team kicks in, no one gets hurt and the situation is brought under control as quickly as possible. On the night of the incident the Shoreham team did not disappoint.” It is certainly a night that I will never forget.