Saturday, January 19, 2013


Every once in a while, I write a blog post simply because my curiosity drove me to look something up, and therefore I might as well share it. 

There's a story in GDN (paywalled) this morning about the recomissioning of the PH Robinson (PHR) power plant (no Wiki entry on that one), which has alternately been described as being in Dickinson, Texas City, San Leon, and Bacliff (it is probably best described legally as being within the Texas City ETJ, and best described geographically as being in Bacliff). 
It's that massive white blob toward photo left, roughly centered vertically, adjacent to FM 146, and connected to Dickinson Bay and Galveston Bay by those long cooling water canals.  The canal exit at Galveston Bay is referred to as "The Spillway" and while the plant was operational, it was (past tense?) an excellent fishing location because the local fish liked to congregate around the warm outflow.   An entire local micro-economy developed around the place. 

Those of us who lived in the San Leon area more than twenty years ago have fond memories of the steam units occasionally popping a relief valve, resulting in explosions that could wake the dead. 

Screengrabbed from Googlemaps.  There's a wonderful low-altitude aerial photo of the plant here
What none of the news clips explain, however, is why this thing is being rebuilt only months after the last of it was blown up.
The actual implosion occurs around the 1:17 mark in this video.

Originally I had assumed that it was one of the older fuel oil plants that had been taken out of service due to the rising cost of liquid hydrocarbon fuels and resulting financial inefficiency.  But apparently it was always a natural gas-fired plant

One can only assume that the equipment was past its useful lifespan, but it sure would be nice to see a little more in-depth reporting on that kind of thing.  Like, yes, we blew up a natural gas power plant so that we could build a natural gas power plant, but we needed to do that for Reason X. 

Anyway, this puts to bed the speculation that the property will be developed into a high-end residential community.  I wonder will the new generation of local residents get as much midnight enjoyment out of teeth-rattling relief valve blows as we old timers did?  Or probably by this time they have sophisticated technology to prevent that kind of thing. 

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