To say weather was an issue during the construction of the NRG Cedar Bayou combined cycle gas-fired power plant unit would be an understatement. Crews struggled with the devastating effects of Hurricane Ike, along with the loss of employees who were either working to rebuild their homes or had left to take jobs associated with the clean-up effort.

NRG Cedar Bayou, Baytown
NRG Cedar Bayou, Baytown
Photo: Breck Sacra

Despite the setbacks, the job was completed ahead of schedule.

When Ike hit the Gulf Coast and the Baytown area in September 2008, the jobsite was forced to close for five days. After the storm passed over the project, many employees were left with damage, power loss and a lack of supplies. Zachry sponsored a relief plan that consisted of free fuel, water and supply stations for its employees.

Volunteers came out to support their fellow workers and distribute necessary materials. Despite the absence of a high number of workers, Zachry continued to pay its employees who were away from work making repairs.

Zachry’s dedication to the community did not end with its employee assistance after the hurricane. The United Way campaign at the jobsite yielded nearly $48,000, and additional contributions to local programs contributed nearly $10,000. The nearly 480 employees dedicated volunteer time to projects such as a blood drive, kids’ science summer camp and an armed forces relay race.

Nonmonetary donations were made to the Blue Santa toy drive, school supply drive, food drive and more. Through these efforts, the community gained necessary assistance for children, families, the homeless and those in need.

It took 10 days for the jobsite to return to a pre-hurricane workforce. Because a diminished workforce was already a problem, Zachry had continuing difficulties remaining at prehurricane employee numbers. After the hurricane, many employees found jobs elsewhere working in clean-up efforts with FEMA.

During the peak workhour portion of the project, Zachry had significant labor issues to work through. Project leadership relied on an extensive employee database and strong recruitment efforts to replace and retain workers.

Hurricane Ike wasn’t the only storm that hit that season. The storm preceding Ike, Hurricane Gustav, also caused time delays in the project’s schedule. Gustav hit the project’s pipe fabrication shop in August 2008, one month before the category-two Ike made landfall. The pipe fabricator had sustained significant damage, including the loss of one of its buildings.

To combat these issues, Zachry did everything from temporarily using a different fabricator to allowing shipments of unpainted pipe.

Between the hurricane interruption and labor difficulties, Zachry had to work hard to remain ahead of schedule. Crews worked weekends, overtime and nights in order to meet the job’s completion goal. Zachry also implemented unique startup plans to expedite project delivery.

The owner’s use of “gray market” equipment further complicated the job. Typically, Zachry provides the equipment in such a way that all components work perfectly together. But because the pieces for the job were created for differing plant types, Zachry had to make vast adjustments in the design and construction to allow for functional performance.

Many pieces of equipment were made by different manufacturers originally designed for a previously canceled job. Some were not comparable in size. Even with diligent design efforts, that created problems with startup and delivery. Although it was a challenge to modify the project based on the unmatched equipment, Zachry was able to effectively manage the problem, find a solution and allow for optimum performance.

Despite the problems, Zachry completed the project one month ahead of schedule for the customer.

In addition to the Judges Award, this project also received the Best Industrial Project award; a Special Award for Engineering Design; and a Special Award for Best Project Management, an honor it shares with the Addition and Renovation of the Historic Cotton Bowl Phase II.

Key Players

Submitted by: Zachry
Owners: NRG Cedar Bayou Development Co. LLC and Optim Energy Cedar Bayou 4 LLC, Baytown
Engineer: Zachry Engineering, Amarillo
General contractor: Zachry, San Antonio