In 2021, Kenny Electric joined Genesis Alkali’s construction team as the sole electrical contractor for the $350 million project to create a next-generation soda ash facility. The plant conversion was a multi-phase plan with a new process building and various site upgrades. The new facility houses the solution processing technology patented by Genesis, wherein Trona is solution-mined by injecting water to dissolve it underground and then pumping it to the surface, where the brine is used to make soda ash. The completed facility employs 120 permanent residents in Sweetwater County, WY, creating long-term, sustainable economic value for the community.

Safety First. Always.

The team encountered tasks at elevated heights, in harsh weather conditions, and on intricate scaffolding structures – all while coordinating with several trades within a confined area. The team maintained a spotless OSHA record with no recordable injuries in the two years and over 300,000 hours worked in these conditions. This is a testament to our unwavering commitment to safety. We tackled complex tasks that required meticulous attention to safety protocols to ensure the well-being of all. Kenny adhered to the following measures to minimize the risks:

  • Daily. Team meetings to communicate the operations to be accomplished during that period. Each member diligently documented plans using our Pre-Task Plan.
  • Weekly. Project meetings to ensure adequate planning on the current scope of work.
  • Weekly. Kenny team safety training to cover various topics. An impressive total of 93 safety sessions were held, resulting in countless hours of safety training.
  • Mandatory 10-hour OSHA training (minimum) requirement to work on-site.

Observation Program. Kenny’s crew leverages their safety knowledge through their unwavering commitment to the company’s observation program. The program is an online tool that empowers employees to identify hazards, unsafe conditions, unsafe actions/at-risk behaviors, and safe actions. By proactively addressing hazards and behaviors, the program promotes a safe workplace while improving employees’ ability to recognize unsafe conditions and raise awareness. Remarkably, the project received over 8,000 observations, demonstrating that acknowledgment of unsafe behaviors leads to improved safety practices and a strong safety culture – directly correlating to zero OSHA recordables.

Obstacles to Solutions

Special projects often demand adaptive solutions, and this expansion was no exception. Kenny faced numerous challenges throughout the 2 years, from extreme weather to the remote location to the sheer scale of the upgrade – regardless of the obstacles, our team was undeterred.

Trade Coordination. Roughly 350 construction professionals were on-site – each simultaneously working in close proximity, side by side, overhead, and underfoot. If mismanaged, this could have been life or death. Our proactive approach enabled us to successfully navigate the complexities of this multi-trade endeavor and achieve a successful outcome. We enhanced the overall efficiency and safety of the projects using the following strategies:

  • Detailed Scheduling: Within in-house scheduling, we created a comprehensive plan utilizing Primavera P6 that clearly outlined the tasks and timelines for each trade involved in the project. This allowed us to coordinate efforts, minimize overlap, and ensure adequate space and resources for each team.
  • Regular Coordination Meetings: Our project management team met regularly with representatives from each trade to review progress, address concerns, and maintain open lines of communication. These meetings fostered collaboration and facilitated the prompt resolution of any issues.
  • Safety Protocols: Recognizing the increased safety risks associated with trade stacking, we developed and enforced strict safety protocols, including designated work zones, proper signage, and mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE).

Sheer Scale. The new facility boasts a staggering 180 feet roof, while the mines continued to operate in their intricately woven 2,500 miles and 1,600 feet beneath the surface tunnels. This presented unique challenges as our team installed over 117 miles of wire, 20,000 feet of cable tray, 24,199 wire terminations, 41-8 KV medium voltage motors, 246 medium voltage terminations, 200 480 volt motors, and lastly, over 1,200 motor terminations. Notable is the eighty-foot waterfall cable tray that shows the varying elevations at the facility as well as the brains of the operation – the motor control center. These figures indeed illustrate the sheer scale and complexity of the project. To ensure success, we focused on three strategies for managing the large-scale project:

  • Thorough Planning: We defined project objectives, identified required resources, estimated timeframes, and established milestones. The details helped us coordinate tasks, allocate resources, and monitor progress. We regularly reviewed and updated our plan to ensure the project was tracked and adapted for changes and challenges.
  • Successful Communication: We communicated clearly with all stakeholders to guarantee successful execution. We held regular meetings and progress reports to help keep everyone aligned with our overall goals. Our collaborative approach influenced teamwork across all tradespeople – ultimately contributing to the project’s success.
  • Quality Control: We implemented quality control measures, such as BIM/VDC (utilizing iPads), inspections, testing, and performance monitoring, to ensure that the project met the technical requirements and delivered a high-quality outcome.

Remote Resource Management.

The mine sits atop the largest Trona deposit in the world – remotely located approximately 30 miles from Green River, WY, and 45 miles from Rock Springs, WY. The geographical mining footprint for Genesis is over 135 square miles. The secluded location added a layer of complication, which drove Kenny Electric to plan meticulously. Some of our steps included:

  • Establish Reliable Shipping: We identified critical locations, including Utah and Nevada, for efficient shipping routes and reliable transportation partners to ensure the consistent flow of materials and supplies to the remote site.
  • Inventory Management: We coordinated and set up storage space to store materials, equipment, and other resources and implemented inventory management to track stock levels, monitor usage, and plan for replenishment as needed.
  • Contingency Planning: We utilized contingency plans for disruptions, extreme weather conditions, and transportation delays.

Extreme Weather.

With temperatures ranging from 15°F to 84°F, the weather at the mine was unpredictable and unforgiving. On January 31, 2023, we experienced arctic temperatures of -30°F outside and -45°F in the facility. At -30°F, hypothermia can set in in roughly 10 minutes. Our resilient workers showed up regardless but were sent home to avoid any risks. To mitigate the conditions on milder days, we adjusted our scheduling to include the following:

  • Frequent breaks to limit the teams’ exposure to the cold
  • Adjusted scheduling so that work was completed during the warmest part of the day
  • Took frequent breaks to warm up when needed

Despite the harsh conditions, our team demonstrated unwavering dedication and adapted as needed to maintain our high safety standards.

Navigating Historic Infrastructure.

A significant challenge during the project was the lack of proper documentation and care on the existing electrical infrastructure, including Motor Control Centers (MCCs) and control wiring installed in the 1970s. To address these issues, our team employed the following strategies:
Reverse Engineering: We traced the control wiring back to their respective sources, documenting each connection to represent the system accurately.
Documentation: We updated the existing documentation to reflect the system’s current state, ensuring seamless future maintenance and upgrades.
Consultation: We consulted with the owners’ termination team and provided detailed instructions on systematically approaching and carefully disconnecting the obsolete equipment.

Inclusivity.

According to The National Association of Women In Construction, women represented 10.9% of the U.S. construction workforce in 2022. We are proud that women represented 26.7% of Kenny’s workforce at the Genesis Mine. Our team’s success is attributed to the invaluable contributions of the women who supported the project in various roles, including engineering, project management, and coordination. Kenny appreciates the diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences of all walks of life and how people enrich our team dynamic, fostering an inclusive and collaborative work environment.

Community.

Community is where our Core Values meet our Mission Statement. On March 2, 2023, seven team members sprung into action to help during a head-on collision on the treacherous icy roads. With the freezing conditions and single-digit temperatures, our team assessed the scene and devised a safety plan. Little did they know – they came to the aid of six employees of Casey Industrial, who were also working at the mine – a real show of the integrity & community of Kenny’s workforce to help fellow tradespeople in need. They took the following steps to rescue the drivers while protecting themselves and others from further injury.

  1. 1. Called 911 and reported the accident, providing the location, the number of people involved, and notable injuries.
  2. Moved the uninjured victims to a safe location.
  3. Provided basic first aid until emergency services arrived.
  4. Directed traffic around the accident.
  5. Directed emergency services to the scene.

The Genesis Alkali expansion project shows the epitome of Kenny Electric’s dedication, excellence, and the true grit of our workforce. The successful completion of the project demonstrates our team’s ability to meet challenges head-on, prioritize protection, and efficiently execute complex projects. We are proud of our accomplishments and look forward to applying the lessons learned from this experience to future endeavors. We thank you for your consideration and hope you recognize our dedicated workforce’s exceptional efforts.

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