From Coal to Natural Gas: O'Connell Electric

Photo credit: John Miller, O'Connell Electric

O’Connell Electric, Victor, N.Y., played an important role in a recent project that converted power generation serving the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, N.Y., from coal to natural gas.

Project owner RED-Rochester recently formed as a utility franchise operating a trigeneration power plant producing electricity, steam and refrigeration used by customers within the business park. (RED stands for recycled energy development.)

The conversion project involved installing four new, high-efficiency natural gas boilers and converting one coal boiler to natural gas. The conversion provides steam to existing turbines that provide power and other utility services for Eastman’s 1,200-acre R&D and manufacturing campus.

O’Connell Electric completed electrical services on the project that included installing 2,300- and 600-volt (V) electric services as well as fiber optic feeders between three buildings. O’Connell worked under subcontract to ESI, a design engineering and construction firm based in Atlanta.

All electrical services were terminated in new panels, 2,300V drives and motor control centers in a central location where they could operate the four new and one converted boiler, said Rob Miller, O’Connell project manager. O’Connell also installed a camera system for monitoring the new boilers, fire alarm systems, I/O electrical controls, and subcontracted to a mechanical contractor to install new controls for the existing coal boiler that was converted.

“The space in which all of the trades had to install the four new boilers was very tight,” Miller said. “Therefore, close coordination with the mechanical contractors along with ESI was critical, as the drawings for the project were mainly schematics and line diagrams.”

Nearly 90 percent of the conduit routing was designed by O’Connell Electric’s field project team.

“All electrical and mechanical piping had to be very carefully planned to ensure it would fit within the limited space,” Miller said. “The numerous medium-voltage and 480V feeders that feed power to the new building were routed several hundred feet on overhead pipe bridging, as the design specifications would not permit any underground installations. Inside the new building, all of the motors, control circuits, lighting and general power circuits had to intertwine with thousands of feet of mechanical piping and ductwork.”

More than 42,000 feet of conduit was installed.

O’Connell’s Construction Services Division operates a prefabrication shop at its Power Group location in Henrietta, N.Y., and the design and fabrication team was brought in to capitalize on any efficiencies.

“The team took advantage of the opportunity to custom design and build light stanchions for the catwalks running throughout the new building,” Miller said. “They started with a basic drawing to get an idea of what was needed for the catwalks, made some modifications and, after the specifications were finalized, produced 46 stanchions in the fabrication shop. The team’s efforts saved more than 60 man-hours that would have been spent at the job site building the stanchions.”

He said working in a controlled environment allows O’Connell’s fabrication team to safely, efficiently and accurately produce specialized components for jobs. At certain times during construction, the field team grew to 12 electricians to bring the electrical scope of work in on time.

“The collaborative effort by all trades resulted in a very successful outcome on the project,” Miller said. “It is very impressive to walk through the new building and see just how limited available space is and to observe the intricate layout of the electrical and mechanical piping and controls

“O’Connell’s success on the boiler conversion project continues to strengthen the company’s position as experts in the manufacturing sector. O’Connell was asked to remain on-site after the project is closed out to continue helping with small projects to assist with getting the new boilers online and operating efficiently,” he said.

Eastman Business Park is home to about 100 companies that employ over 6,000 people in some 16 million square feet of multiscale manufacturing, distribution, lab and office space.

With the new boilers fully operational, the business park will be completely coal-free for the first time in over 100 years. Emissions of sulfur dioxide and heavy metals will be effectively eliminated. Carbon dioxide emissions will fall by 50 percent. Nitrous oxide and particulates will be reduced by more than half.

O’Connell Electric Co. is a full-service regional electrical, power line and communications contractor headquartered in Upstate New York. As a diversified full service electrical contractor, O’Connell provides comprehensive design-build, construction, service, maintenance and emergency response services.

In late 2017, the company purchased a 22,000-square-foot building next door to its Power Group location in Henrietta to expand fabrication operations. The new facility has four times the space, allowing the Construction Services Group to grow its services.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at

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