The owners of the Sandy Creek coal-fired power plant in Riesel are suing a Washington-based energy services provider for damages to the plant caused during a test in which the boiler overheated.

The October 2011 incident forced costly repairs to the boiler and contributed to delays in the commercial operation of the plant, the lawsuits allege.

The plant started running at full capacity in the spring, more than a year later than planned.

In two separate lawsuits filed this week in two McLennan County state district courts, the owners of the plant claim that negligence on the part of the NAES Corp., which was hired to maintain and operate the plant, severely damaged the plant’s boiler.

NAES spokeswoman Janette Carroll did not return phone calls seeking comment on the lawsuits.

Sandy Creek Power Partners, partial owners of the plant, is the sole plaintiff in one suit, while Sandy Creek Energy Associates, Brazos Sandy Creek Energy Cooperative, Lower Colorado River Authority and Sandy Creek Power Partners are plaintiffs in the second lawsuit.

The allegations in the lawsuits are similar and both charge NAES Corp. with negligence.

One of the suits says the insurance underwriters for the plant ownership already have paid $16.2 million in claim damages.

According to the suits, the plant uses a pulverized coal-fired boiler to generate steam that is directed through a steam-turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity.

Water is pumped into the tubes of the boiler, where it is heated before flowing through various headers, where steam is extracted and sent to the turbine, the suit says.

It is critical, the suit says, that the boiler tubes get enough water to keep them from overheating and causing “significant damage to the plant.”

On Oct. 17, 2011, the owners were testing the plant and “proceeded to ramp up” the plant’s energy production by increasing the amount of coal in the boiler.

However, according to claims in the lawsuit, the NAES operators failed to increase the “feed water master,” which would have increased water flow to the boiler as electricity production increased. This failure caused the boiler to overheat, the suits claim.

“The insufficient cooling condition persisted for an extended period of time before it was acknowledged by the NAES control room personnel and before they initiated action to correct the cooling deficiency,” one of the suits alleges.

“The sustained overheating and subsequent rapid cooling caused permanent metallurgical damage to the tubes and irreparable damage to the boiler itself, necessitating replacement of the entire boiler and damaged boiler components,” the suit says.

Neither Houston attorney Brook F. Minx, who filed one of the lawsuits, nor Frank Piccolo, a Houston attorney who filed the other suit, returned phone calls to their offices.

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