Kyocera Cogeneration Plant Upgrade

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Black Start

Kyocera plant relies on Cat® generators to power up in an emergency



When a widespread outage knocked out power to the southwestern U.S. in September 2011, it paralyzed San Diego, plunging the nation’s eighth largest city into darkness. While authorities worked to control the ensuing chaos, Kyocera America’s manufacturing plant was out of commission for eight hours.


While two large electric furnaces that are integral to the manufacture of ceramic packages for integrated circuits were not damaged, the outage underscored Kyocera’s need for standby capacity in the event of a power failure. If the furnaces cool abruptly, all of the working processes shut down, with several hours of downtime translating into millions of dollars in losses, says John Tanaka, manager of automation and plant engineering.


“With the unique nature of our ceramic manufacturing process, sometimes it can take those big furnaces three to four months to recover from the damage,” Tanaka said. Fortunately, Kyocera’s Cat Dealer, Hawthorne Power Systems, responded immediately when plant engineer Nathan Justice rushed to the dealership to ask for help after all phone lines stopped working. A rental generator helped keep power flowing to the most critical part of the plant. “They hooked the generator up to one of their trucks and brought it right over,” Justice said. “If Hawthorne hadn’t responded in a timely manner, we would have had major damage to the furnace.” Even before the outage hit, plans were underway to replace the 23-year-old gas generators in a total overhaul of the cogeneration plant¬—which involved gutting it down to the floor. Due to the age of the gas generators, there was a high cost for maintenance and operation, Tanaka said. Further, the old engines didn’t have emission controls to comply with California air quality standards—although they were grandfathered in and met emissions standards during lean-burn testing.


“In the future, we expect California’s emission standards to become tighter and tighter, so we want to be proactive,” Tanaka said of the decision to rebuild the cogeneration plant and install two new Cat gas-powered generators, along with a Cat 3512B diesel generator for standby power. “Realizing significant cost savings was also a key factor in our decision.”



Complete overhaul

The scope of the project involved removing four 800 kW gas generators along with two absorption chillers and one centrifugal chiller, said plant engineer Nathan Justice, who is managing the project. Everything inside the cogeneration building came out, as it was gutted to a shell. Where Kyocera formerly had four engines in a line, the new plant will employ two Caterpillar reciprocating gas gensets (a 3520 and a 3516) to produce a gross 3,690kW for use at Kyocera’s facility, along with the diesel generator providing 1,500 kW of standby power. Waste heat from the gensets will be used to produce 970 tons of chilled water in new hot water absorption chillers. The original intent was to rebuild the existing 3.2 MW cogen plant with gas only. However, Tanaka and Justice were not confident that the frequency response of the new gas generator sets would allow for for sustainable island mode capability and load sharing in a stand-alone environment without a diesel generator.


The former cogen plant operated in parallel with the utility all of the time. Each generator set used the utility as a phase reference to stay in sync. If the Kyocera plant lost the utility feed from San Diego Gas & Electric, then everything would go down, Justice said. “Originally, we just wanted to use gas engines to maintain our plant, but when we thought about having the ability to backup our plant in the event of a power loss, it was necessary to install a large enough diesel to maintain the optional standby loads such as the large furnaces on our production lines,” Justice said. “The frequency response of the gas engines wasn’t going to provide us the ability to supply backup power and remain stable. “So, with the inability to run in standalone mode, combined with the fact that the gas engines had over 160,000 hours on them, it was decided to upgrade our plant,” Justice said.


Tanaka came to the conclusion that if Kyocera wanted to have a stand-alone capability, then it would be necessary to add diesel to support the gas engines and their load sharing and block-loading ability—while also having the ability to recover from a loss of utility power in a timely manner. The standby diesel can start up the entire plant from a dead bus, without lights and without any power— hence the name “black start.” After researching the project for more than three years, Tanaka received approval from Kyocera headquarters in Japan to replace everything in the cogen plant, including the concrete floor and the connecting infrastructure that lies beneath it. “Everything inside the (cogen) building came out,” Justice said. “It has been ‘out with the old, and in with the new.’”


General Contractor, West Coast Air Conditioning (WCAC), performs rigging and setting of the CAT 3250, above.
In addition, WCAC identifies the location of the new concrete equipment pads, right.


Unique demand

Kyocera uses the heat from its cogeneration facility to feed the chillers that air condition the plant. Beyond power consumption considerations, the plant requires low humidity and an optimum furnace temperature range for the manufacture of its ceramic packages and other sensitive products. Originally, Tanaka investigated the possibility of using turbines for cogeneration, however, gas generators proved to be a better match for Kyocera’s chilled water needs. “We looked at several brands, but the Caterpillar engines and gensets were the best match for our requirements,” Justice

With 14 different load centers within the plant, Justice says the intent of having the black start diesel generator is to back up and protect the two large money-producing furnaces, as well as 15 smaller ones. The generator will also back up the facility’s data center, lighting and security system. “It is rare that we actually use emergency power, but with our production requirements, we simply must have reliable emergency backup,” Tanaka adds. The gas-powered cogeneration system and diesel backup are expected to be installed and fully operational by July. “It’s really going to function as one— two gas engines with a diesel,” Tanaka says. “Since we have used Caterpillar engines for many years, when it came time to replace them, we decided to stay with what we know we can count on.”



Kyocera America

Kyocera America, Inc. designs, manufactures, and assembles microelectronic packaging solutions and optoelectronic components for the telecommunications, wireless, optoelectronic, semiconductor, and specialty products markets. Kyocera America is a subsidiary of Kyocera International, Inc. of San Diego, the North American headquarters for Kyoto, Japan-based Kyocera Corporation.


In the late 1960s, semiconductor companies in Silicon Valley needed insulating material to package their integrated circuits. It became a big business for Kyocera, as the Japanese company created a packaging solution with Fairchild Semiconductor for an integrated circuit that Fairchild was mass producing. In 1971, when Fairchild offered to sell its 10-year-old plant in San Diego, Kyocera acquired it. Five Japanese engineers launched the operation, making Kyocera the first Japanese high tech manufacturer in the State of California.


That same year, Intel invented the microprocessor, and Kyocera became a heavy supplier of ceramic packaging to Intel for many years. Since the computer has been commoditized and prices have come down, Kyocera has expanded its packaging solutions with a line of organic products as well. Kyocera’s ceramic semiconductor packages are widely used in very high-reliability applications such as communications, space, satellites and medicine. For any integrated circuit that requires electrical insulation and thermal management, where the failure of the circuitry would be catastrophic, ceramic remains the best solution. Kyocera America’s services include package design, production, assembly and testing.





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