Ameren power plant workers try to keep cool during hot temps

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WEST ALTON, IL (KTVI)-- West Alton, Illinois is a hot place where your cold air comes from.

"Eighty two degrees?" asks Patrick Clark.

"Yes that's the temperature pointing at the monitor," says Mark Selvog, the Superintendent of Production for Ameren Missouri`s Sioux Plant.  "That's the temperature right at the center of the screen."

"We're going where it's going to be a lot warmer?" asks Clark.

"Yeah, we're going where it's going to be at least 120 I'm guessing.  Some of the surface temps may be 130 or 140 degrees," adds Selvog.

This is the Ameren Missouri Sioux Energy Center, a giant coal burning plant.

"All those red lines are different coal belts and hoppers as we feed coal into the plant," says Selvog.  "We burn 240 tons of coal per hour per unit at full load.  A lot of coal."

And it gets hot!

"Right here this is the outside of the boiler it's 145 degrees on the external side," says Selvog.  "Internal there where the flame and fire is it's about 2000 degrees in the furnace."

That bears repeating, 2,000 degrees!

That's why guys here drink a lot of water with powder mixes that replenish electrolytes.

"You can feel a chill because you're starting to dehydrate," says Chief Operating Engineer.

Mark Kilman said, "You're no longer sweating.  You start feeling like that you know it's time to get out of the area, go to a place, cool down and rehydrate."

It starts with Mississippi river water that picks up steam, literally.

They'll pump the pressure of that water to 4,400 psi.

"It takes that much pressure to push the water and the steam through the boiler circuitry to make it to the turbans with enough pressure to generate electricity," says Selvog.

That water winds up back at its original temperature.

Speaking of which, let`s get back to the cooler control center.

"Down below us there's 1000 of miles of cable and monitors and sensors to sense and monitor everything in the plant," says Selvog.  "But the basic principle is to burn coal, make steam and spin a turbine.  What we're doing is very simple but the way to do it is complex.  There are a lot of intricacies involved in getting there."

This means a lot of hot days for some cool guys.