In remote West Texas, residents were experiencing power disruptions caused by aging infrastructure, and a surge in local oil production was demanding more capacity than was available. The 100-year-old transmission and distribution system simply wasn’t keeping up.
American Electric Power (AEP), which serves 5.4 million customers and is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, knew it had to upgrade its system to improve the stability of power in West Texas. And with an oil boom at hand, the utility had to prepare for future growth by providing greater capacity and higher voltage to support area oilfields.
Providing Turnkey Solutions in Power Delivery
AEP needed a complete design-build solution, and so it brought Black & Veatch on board as an EPC contractor to provide engineering, procurement and construction services, including permitting, for the new Cassava Substation.
The project involved building a new 138/69kV substation from the ground up in a remote corner of Texas. The station utilizes a three-breaker 69kV ring bus with a 138/69kV transformer and 138kV breaker. The project also built 13 miles of new 138kV overhead transmission line to replace the old existing 69kV line.
With over 40,000 miles of transmission lines, AEP has the largest transmission system in the U.S. Thus, it was critical that Black & Veatch manage the project at a level that would minimize AEP involvement, freeing up the utility’s internal resources to focus on other efforts.
"It’s important for AEP to have a single point of contact for execution of these projects because we are growing at a rapid pace. It allows us to execute our portfolio and effectively manage our growth."
Benefits of Self-Performing EPC
The Cassava Project is a great example of how Black & Veatch’s non-union substation construction self-perform capabilities directly benefit a client. Overland Contracting, Inc. (OCI), a Black & Veatch company, served as construction contractor, responsible for construction management and safety for the entirety of the project.
“We were able to bring those crews into West Texas and do all the foundation work, the electrical work, the substation work, all in-house to deliver our product,” said Andrew Sijon, OCI Construction Site Manager. We were able to provide a full product for our client from start to finish, working hand-in-hand with AEP to make sure we’re giving them the best product, communicating with them on a daily basis, and making sure we meet our deadline.”
Safety the No. 1 Priority
Black & Veatch had an outstanding safety record on the project, with zero recordable injuries while logging more than 51,000 man-hours.
“We had zero recordables and this was attributed to the strong safety culture that was implemented on the project, meeting the goals of both AEP and Black & Veatch,” Bryant said.
Addressing & Overcoming Challenges
The project was not without its challenges. Black & Veatch overcame delays in the production schedule to complete the project both on time and on budget.
“One of the main challenges of the Cassava Project was the tough drilling conditions; there’s a rock layer (limestone) under the earth here,” Sijon said. “That’s something we had to overcome through larger equipment and more manpower, and we were able to do that.”
The project also involved addressing environmental concerns, from using weed wash stations to prevent the spread of noxious weeds to following best management practices for low-water stream crossings. And the presence of red-tailed hawks nesting in existing structures required close coordination with local environmental agencies.
Because the project butted up against private land, the project required heavy coordination between the team and area landowners to ensure minimal impact to the day-to-day operations for the landowners.
“This project shows that Black & Veatch is able to execute complex projects in remote locations—no matter the scale,” Sijon said.