As investigators search for a cause of Sunday's deadly power plant explosion in Middletown, some engineering experts say it is likely to be several months before it is even known how much of the Kleen Energy building can be salvaged.
The devastation caused by the blast may set back the construction timetable at least a year, one expert said Monday — and that is only if there isn't damage to major generating equipment, such as the gas-powered turbines.
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The arduous task of assessing the damage at the 620-megawatt plant probably won't start in earnest until after a cause is determined and the rubble is cleared.
"Many things are obviously damaged and in ruins," said Dave Carlson, principle at Spiegel Zamecnik & Shah in New Haven, which has designed additions and repairs to power plants. "All the steel will be looked at, the foundation could be cracked, anchor bolts may have pulled loose."
He added: "What may be stout enough to be standing at this moment, may still not be strong enough."
An even bigger concern is how the blast might have damaged expensive equipment that is the largest portion of the project's cost.
"The big problem is the equipment," said James Brockman, president of Macchi Engineers LLC in Hartford, which has done power plant designs. "In these powerhouses, the equipment is built right into the structure itself."
Middletown Power Plant Explosion
Brockman said, "Building officials will be very concerned about salvaging equipment because there will be potential problems such as cracks."
How the rubble has fallen can provide clues to the cause of the explosion, Carlson said.
Kleen Energy Systems LLC is covered for property damage and business interruption losses in a policy shared by several insurers, including American International Group and Travelers Cos., according to Businessinsurance.com, which cited sources in the industry.
The Hartford doesn't insure the site or any of the large contractors, but it does cover some equipment only — no liability — for one contractor, a company spokesman said.
Kleen Energy has $664 million in insurance to cover the project's estimated value and $212 million to pay claims in any delay in startup, Businessinsurance.com reported Monday, citing unnamed "market sources."
Also citing unnamed sources, Businessinsurance.com said that early estimates put the loss at about $150 million, $50 million related to property damage and the rest covering a year of delays.
It was unclear Monday if those losses were for insurance claims or total losses caused as a result of the explosion. Insurers will submit details of their exposure in the accident to the Department of Public Utility Control.
Lee Langston, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut, said he believes that there will be pressure to get the project back on track because those financing the project are expecting a return on their investments.
Langston said he expects the explosion will delay the project a year, assuming that no major equipment, such as the gas turbines, is damaged.
It is also important to remember that despite the widely published photos of the destruction, the plant, he believes, is not a total loss, Langston said.
"There are many parts to this power plant that aren't affected," he said.
Courant staff writer Matthew Sturdevant contributed to this story.
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