Evangeline has produced power for Cleco since 1945
By: CARISSA HEBERT
The power plant in the community of St. Landry, which came online in 1945, continues to produce electrical power on a daily basis within the tall fences that protect the structure from unwanted guests and prevents others from seriously being injured by the operation of the plant.
Once known as the Coughlin Transmission Operations Center, the Evangeline Power Station is Cleco’s first unregulated power plant owned and operated by Cleco Evangeline LLC under the umbrella of Cleco Midstream Resources LLC, a subsidiary of Cleco Corp.
(Coughlin was named after Frank Hugh Coughlin, who joined Louisiana Ice and Electric in Bunkie in 1938 as vice president. Louisiana Ice and Electric changed its name to Central Louisiana Electric Company Inc. (CLECO) in 1945. In 1948, the company put its first two 7,000-kilowatt electrical generators on line at its new Coughlin Power Station, which was named in Coughlin’s honor. This was the first plant in the nation to place its turbine generators outside, exposed to the elements. In 1966 Coughlin advanced to the chairmanship of Cleco’s board.)
According to the company’s history, “Evangeline began commercial operations in July 2000, and evolved from Cleco’s Coughlin Power Station. Employees and contractors refurbished two aging generating units at Coughlin to help meet the growing energy needs of customers in Louisiana and renamed the plant Evangeline. Cleco Midstream purchased the plant’s assets from Cleco Power LLC in 1999 after approval from state and federal regulators.”
Today, the plant operates 24-hours-a-day with a staff of approximately 28 people working in four 12-hour rotation shifts under the direction of plant manager, Joe W. Sepulvado. The maintenance department works day shifts, and the plant is a secured area.
“Our goal is zero accidents,” Sepulvado said. He said the staff actually has achieved that accomplishment even with two major outages occurring. The staff uses the off-season, its spring and fall, to do major maintenance and repairs of its equipment in a time period known as an outage. Evangeline’s staff just completed a scheduled 12-week outage. Every eight to 10 years they conduct a major outage where everything is disassembled, every piece of equipment is refurbished or changed if necessary and re-installed. “Sometimes things have to be replaced because they’re obsolete,” Sepulvado said.
Safety is the key for all of Cleco and its other associated investments. Daniel Fruge’, lead safety specialist, said workers and the public are trained by Cleco for safety purposes.
Each employee must complete a list of courses each year. Safety issues range from electricity to chemicals and even environmental training. Fruge’ and Sepulvado said employees are trained to handle all types of emergencies. Once, a truck driver arrived at the plant with a medical issue. Employees contacted 9-1-1 and a helicopter was flown in to take the driver to the nearest hospital.
“No matter what goes on around the plant, safety is first,” Fruge’ said. “We don’t compromise safety for anything.”
The plant’s ties to the parish remain strong because many local residents have worked and retired from the plant. JP Morgan owns the generated output of the plant and sells it to Cleco and to neighboring utility companies.
Evangeline’s employee with the most years on the job is 30-plus, and its newest hire, a man from Ville Platte, has been there a few months. Day-to-day operations for employees typically involve monitoring equipment, making inspection rounds to check the perimeter, temperatures of chemicals, etc. The maintenance department has all the expertise necessary to address any mechanical or electrical problems.
A tour of the plant illustrates how electricity is generated through a boiler, generator and auxiliary equipment. “You can’t see it,” Sepulvado explains of the electrical product. He said it’s fed into the big transmission substation and then the substation lines until it reaches homes. Evangeline has three of these units that produce the plant’s total output of 775,000 megawatts.
Sepulvado explained its capable of generating that much electricity but on an average generates 700,000 megawatts and would be able to supply electricity to that many homes.
The process of generating electricity is described like the operation of a jet engine. Fruge tried to explain the process in a simple manner. He said natural gas is used to propel the generator that feeds the CT (combustion turbine) where water and gas boils much like boiling water on the stove. When the CT reaches 3600 RPM (revolutions per minute), electricity is being produced. This process also produces a hot gas, which is utilized in the HRSG (Heat Recovery Steam Generator) process where temps can reach 1,000-degrees in this exhaust system. Electricity is also produced in a second phase when the gas produced from the first process passes around tubes filled with water in the HRSG to create steam which moves into an ST (steam turbine) area and forces the generator to spin, creating more electricity. This electricity also is shipped out through the transmission phase.
In the old days, the plant was monitored by machines that printed graphs and hand knobs and switches to adjust output. Today, a computer system exists, and an operator can change settings with a flick of a wrist or answer an alarm, built into the system, with a visual display of the area in question. Ricky Bonnette, an equipment operator, said if there’s a problem, he’ll look at his monitors and ask for a visual inspection from a man outside. All of this is performed to make sure everything is operating correctly.
And if you were thinking about the monetary value of this business to the parish _ besides supplying electricity – the plant paid $1.1 million to the parish for property, sales and use tax in 2008. Mike Veillon, administrator for the Evangeline Parish Sales/Use Tax Commission, said the bulk of the money is for property tax, but monies derived from this plant for sales and use collections are split between the school board, police jury and solid waste. Of course, he said when the corporation, Cleco, performs work within a community, then that particular community receives monies through sales/use taxes. And over the years, when Evangeline has required upgrades or replacement equipment, he has seen larger amounts of collections paid to the parish.
Today, Cleco’s two primary businesses are Cleco Power LLC, a regulated electric utility business serving approximately 276,000 customers in Louisiana, and Cleco Midstream Resources LLC, a wholesale energy business, generating approximately 1,360 megawatts of regulated generating capacity and managing an additional 691 megawatts for our partners through Cleco Power. In addition, the company has almost 1,355 megawatts of unregulated capacity in operation through Cleco Midstream Resources. And in the community of St. Landry, two of Cleco’s holdings exist side-by-side – the Evangeline plant and Cleco’s energy control center. Both are two separate businesses and employees remain separated from each facility. Both are vital to the way we receive electricity at home.