Resilient Energy

How a thermal power plant did everything possible to keep COVID-19 on the other side of its portal in 2020?

Extraordinary circumstances require creativity and resilience. Probably more than once each of us has faced an insurmountable difficulty that has mobilized us to seek creative solutions and make great efforts to overcome. The COVID-19 pandemic put the whole of society, including most businesses, to such a test. The challenge is especially important for everyone on the front line, as well as for those who take care that the critical infrastructure operates – so that there is electricity and work communications.

When the epidemic broke out in early 2020, the international energy company ContourGlobal completely reorganized its work with the specific goal of preserving its most valuable capital – the people. The company produces electricity in 20 countries on three continents and has nearly 1,500 employees. One third of them work in Bulgaria, at “ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3” TPP near Galabovo, Stara Zagora region and in the office in Sofia. With its 908 MW the power plant is among the key generating capacities in the country, and its stable operation is a guarantee for the security of our electricity system.

In the period from January to the end of November 2020, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP provided almost 11% of the electricity produced in the country.

How does the company solve the problem of safety in a pandemic?

The fight against COVID-19 begins outside the thermal power plant’s entrance barrier. The bus transportation, which usually transports the employees to the TPP and back every day, is replaced by a car-based one with additional measures to minimize the risks, and the thermal cameras installed at the entrance measure the temperature of those entering. The shared, working and sanitary premises, the heavy mechanization, even the cars with which people come to work, are being disinfected daily.

“It is not enough to have a modern facility, you need healthy and competent people. We are talking about everyone who has direct contact with the power plant – employees, subcontractors, suppliers and visitors. We had to reorganize the process very quickly – we reduced the access of outsiders, and for some employees we created conditions for working from home, ” said Nikolay Kolev, Health, Safety and Security Manager at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3.

The power plant’s employees are provided with free testing and additional health insurance, which also covers treatment in case of COVID-19 infection. The employees’ children received special sanitary packages with masks and disinfectants at the beginning of the school year. Part of the strategy to tackle the pandemic is to ensure effective operation in a possible complete isolation mode. To this end the site of “ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3” TPP is equipped with a special building, where, if necessary, the volunteers from the operational staff can be accommodated. The infrastructure is fully prepared to provide them with comfortable conditions for rest, the necessary social distance and a continuous internet connection for communication with their families and relatives. The medical center and the fire-fighting service introduce emergency action protocols.

A special challenge is the regular maintenance of the TPP – the planned repair campaign of the facilities in the summer, which requires the presence on site of dozens of subcontractors with thousands of employees. During the campaign, additional 6,680 tests were run on the employees of external companies.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 3,600 COVID-19 tests have been taken by the ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 employees. People are gradually getting used to the new reality and working conditions. At the power plant, no one doubts that the measures are necessary, timely and adequate to the situation.

“The epidemic changed our way of life outside the power plant, but also the hours we spend at work. We have to adapt and the company provides everything we need to work safely and comfortably, and to return home to our families in good health. In this way we can keep doing what we are best at – producing enough and affordable energy for the country, “said Milko Tenev, head of operational shift at the power plant.

Helping local communities

During the hard pandemic times, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP directed efforts and funds to the local communities in Galabovo and Stara Zagora. The municipal hospital in Galabovo received modern X-ray equipment, personal protective equipment and consumables aimed to facilitate the treatment of coronavirus patients. The company also joined the United against COVID-19 Fund with a donation of BGN 100,000, as significant part of the funds was distributed in support of municipal hospitals and medical centers in Stara Zagora district. The power plant provided dispensers for disinfectants and consumables at the Zahariy Knyazheski Regional Library in Stara Zagora, and five institutions for children deprived of parental care in the city, and five schools in the Municipality of Galabovo, were supported with COVID-19 sanitary protection kits. In the autumn, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 repaired and equipped premises in the Samaritan House Crisis Center, managed by the Samaritans Association, Stara Zagora, and later donated food products and protective equipment to the Home for Adults with Physical Disabilities in the city.

In the recent years, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP has invested more than BGN 4 million to the benefit of local communities.