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Finning power back up for UK’s biggest pumping station

Finning Power Systems, the sole UK supplier of Caterpillar equipment, has won a contract from Birse Water to supply the complete critical back up power for the main pumps at the UK’s largest pumping station as part of the Fens flood protection.

Finning power back up for UK’s biggest pumping station

Due to come on stream in 2010, the £38 million new plant on the Middle level drain at St Germans, near Kings Lynn, will help protect 70,000 hectares of land and 25,000 homes from the North Sea. This land, stretching as far inland as Peterborough and Sawtry, is all close to or below sea level.
Finning is supplying six CAT 3500 series generators to power the six pumps. Three of these generator sets provide emergency power for three pumps, which would normally be mains powered. The other three generators are the sole source of power for the remaining three pumps.

The generator sets provide a total of 8160kWe power, generating at 690V with non-standard alternators specifically designed and manufactured for the project.

The company is responsible for delivery to site, offloading, installation, commissioning and site testing of the complete solution prior to handover.

Each generator set will have a day fuel tank with a larger fuel storage tank providing back up. This would enable all six pumps to work continuously for ten days in the event of a complete mains power failure and serious flooding.

An additional auxiliary generator, supplied by Finning, provides a black start for the main generators plus power for the station’s other needs.

Each generator sits in its own plant room with Finning also supplying the plant room ventilation, sound attenuation system, complete exhaust systems and the day fuel storage tanks. The ventilation and sound attenuation system includes roof-mounted, penthouse inlet weather louvres and attenuators and wall-mounted, vertical discharge attenuators and weather louvres complete with automatic motorised weather dampers.

The project is the responsibility of the Middle Level Commissioners, a Cambridgeshire Local Authority responsible for Land Drainage and Navigation. When operational, the new pumping station will be able to pump 100 tonnes of water per second, a 40 percent increase on the existing station. That equates to an Olympic sized swimming pool every 30 seconds.

The existing station, built in 1934, is at the end of its working life and experts fear that its pumps are not powerful enough to cope with rising sea levels and the increasing need to pump water "uphill" against the tide as our climate changes.

Said David Thomas, chief engineer for Middle Level Commissioners: "This project is very much a safety first approach and forms part of our flood defence. Whether any of the pumps are operational is weather dependent.

"Three pumps should be enough to cope with a typical annual flood, four would be needed for a serious one in ten years flood, while all six would only need to operate for catastrophic flooding, the sort of event that we would expect only once in a hundred years.

"Climate change is a major threat for the Fens so we had to act. This project has been designed to provide protection up to 2050 and takes this threat into account."

The new St Germans pumping station is expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2010. The existing station continues to operate in the meantime.

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