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Built in Jeannette, giant 171-ton Elliott turbine lumbers through Donora

September 16, 2018
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A young girl wathces from a window, as utility workers raise cables, while the Elliott Group moves a 171 ton steam generator, from their facitlity in Donora, on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.

Carl Vehouc slung his camera around his neck to capture the spectacle on his quiet Donora street.

Before him, a 171-ton steam turbine covered in white plastic was slowly passing by.

His wife, Evelyn, recorded the strange scene on her cellphone.

“It just brought some excitement today,” she said.

Several streets in Donora turned into a path for the first leg of the turbine’s shipment from Elliott Group’s Donora Service Center to a petrochemical plant near Monaca on the Ohio River. The turbine was manufactured in Jeannette, Elliott’s U.S. headquarters, and then transported in pieces to the Donora center earlier this year to be reassembled for shipment, said J.J. Benford, shipping manager.

It’s the largest turbine Elliott has ever manufactured. With that, came some logistical hoops.

Utility crews, state police and Elliott employees followed the 2-mile parade by specialized 20-axle, 62-foot-long trailer on foot for a few hours while residents looked on. The height reached 24 feet, meaning many utility lines had to be lifted for the turbine to make it through.

J. Supor & Son Trucking & Rigging Co., based in New Jersey, is handling transport logistics.

Benford has been planning for 18 months for Friday and Saturday, when the turbine will be lifted by a crane onto a barge from a Donora dock and head downriver on the Monongahela and then the Ohio. It should arrive at its destination by Tuesday, he said.

“We’re only 35 miles away from where it has to go,” but road and rail options were not feasible, Benford said. “Our best option is to put it on a river.”

Even Elliott had to make adjustments for the huge turbine -- 6 feet of height had to be added to a garage door at the Donora site, said Matt Stitt, who managed the project at the center. Crews had to build a rail line and use hydraulics to get it out the door -- at 50 feet an hour.

Stitt said workers at the Donora Service Center usually repair existing products.

“We don’t typically handle the new apparatus like this,” he said. “We’re hoping for a successful move.”

It was impressive to residents.

“It was amazing,” Barbara Borkowski said. “We never saw anything this big come through.”

She lives on Meldon Avenue with husband, Bernie. Like a few other residents, they watched intently as the truck made a 90-degree turn from Gilmore Avenue to Spragg Street with no problem.

“I was holding my breath,” she said. “I honestly didn’t think they were going to make it.”

There was plenty of time to catch the sights -- the turbine departed at about 10:30 a.m. and, an hour later, had traveled about half a mile. The turbine will power a cracked gas compressor train at the facility near Monaca. Elliott officials declined to elaborate on any details about that facility.

Construction is underway at a Shell cracker plant in Potter Township, Beaver County. It is expected to open in the next few years.

Movement at the dock will begin after 8 a.m. Saturday, Benford said.

“I’ll be happy when it’s done,” he said, smiling. “It’s a lot of planning, a lot of work, a lot of communication between everybody.”

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