Fix the pumps

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Apples to apples

Now that we've gotten the basics of how the Corps wants to keep all those nasty numbers away from the public, let's start looking at what information the Corps has let slip out on Options 1 and 2.

The only recent cost information we have comes from the Congressional Cost Report. And as scanty as it is, it still has value.

Here's the costs as reported on page 2:

For this post, I'm going to zoom in one number in particular, the "stations only" number for Option 2:

"PUMPING PLANT $1.468 billion"

That's the number just for the pump stations themselves, not the work on the canals that is the heart of Option 2. That canal work is substantial, and I'll probably look at it later.

A caveat: this is only for Option 2. Any changes resulting from Option 2a are not a part of this comparison, not because Option 2a is less important, but because there is more data to compare between the two reports when it comes to Option 2. If the Corps would release the entirety of the 2009 Black & Veatch 90 Day Report, the public would be able to do whatever comparison they wanted.

For now though, how does this Congressional Cost Study "stations only" number compare to the equivalent numbers from the 2006 GEC/Black & Veatch study?

That 2006 study was a rough order of magnitude (or "ROM,") study, so there was quite a bit of slop in the numbers. The margins of error were large on these numbers, meaning they were supposed to be toward the high end of things. In fact, the consultants added a 69.4% contingency on the prices for the 2006 numbers. It would be valuable - very valuable - to know the corresponding contingency for the 2009 estimate.

So let's take a look at the "station only" numbers from the 2006 study. Those can be pulled from page 329, which we've previously looked at:

Those numbers were:

17th Street: $249,888,716
Orleans Ave: $75,237,316
London Ave: $157,228,610

Adding together, the 2006 cost for the stations only was $482 million, or $1 billion less than the latest Corps numbers.

Yes. According to the Corps' consultants who worked on both reports, the cost for just the stations increased $1 billion in 3 years. That's a magnificently humongous increase, especially considering the 2006 numbers were increased by nearly 70% to account for unknowns.

Frankly, $1 billion sounds crazy, so let's try to make sure we're comparing apples to apples. We can compare all the non-cost data between the two reports, since the Corps deigned to release all of that in the 2009 report.

First off, maybe the installed pumping capacity went up between 2006 and 2009:

In the 2006 study:

17th St: 12,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) installed
Orleans: 3400 cfs installed
London: 9000 cfs installed

Here's the sizing for the 2009 report:

17th St: 10,500 cfs installed (2000 cfs less than 2006)
Orleans: 2750 cfs installed (650 cfs less than 2006)
London: 6880 cfs installed (2120 cfs less than 2006)

Installed pumping capacity went down between the two reports. And both reports used the same basic pump designs - vertical pumps.

What about the size of the buildings? Let's look at the longest dimension, the length:

In 2006:

17th Street: 378 feet, rounded up to 400 feet
Orleans: 124 feet, rounded up to 130 feet
London: 284 feet, rounded up to 300 feet

In 2009:

17th Street: 378 feet, rounded up to 380 feet (20 feet shorter than 2006)
Orleans: 124 feet, rounded up to 130 feet (same length as in 2006)
London: 248 feet, rounded up to 250 feet (50 feet shorter than in 2006)

What about the building heights?

In 2006, it appeared they were planning on buildings whch were 73 feet tall:

(Page 297, 2006 report)

Now, they seem to be planning on buildings that are 57.5 feet tall:

(from September 17, 2009 presentation by USACE to SLFPA-E)

Um, okay. The 2009 study uses buildings which have gotten smaller in height and length compared to the 2006 study. The London Avenue building is shorter on length because the Corps wants to divert flow to the Florida Avenue canal, making one pump bay unnecessary at the lakefront station.

How about the amount of generator fuel storage?

2006 numbers:

17th Street: 206,986 gallons
Orleans: 58,856 gallons
London: 152,173 gallons

2009 numbers:

17th Street: 150,589 gallons (25% less fuel capacity than 2006)
Orleans: 40,579 gallons (30% less fuel capacity than 2006)
London: 100,393 gallons (33% less fuel capacity than 2006)

Hmm... less fuel storage too.

How about the total building electrical loads?


17th Street: 50,216 kVA
Orleans Ave: 13,808 kVA
London Ave: 36,146 kVA


17th Street: 30,135 kVA (40% lower than 2006)
Orleans Ave: 3019 kVA (78% lower than 2006)
London Ave: 20,081 kVA (44% lower than 2006)

Total generator power required for all 3 stations?

100 megawatts (not including utilities)

60 megawatts (including utilities).

So here's the list of things on the Option 2 stations that got smaller between the 2006 and 2009 studies:

1) Installed pumping capacity
2) Building lengths
3) Building heights
4) Generator fuel storage
5) Maximum electrical load
6) Total generating power

And here's the list of things on the Option 2 stations that got significantly bigger between the 2006 and 2009 studies:

1) Cost

Is it any wonder there is deep skepticism regarding the Corps' 2009 cost estimate?


  • If they're using traditional engineering methodologies, the ROM estimate is accurate only to the order of magnitude (i.e.- Right # of zeros). A proper FEED study (or whatever your terminology of choice) is supposed to be accurate to +25%/-15%. Almost all budgeting is as much art as science, IMHO.

    By Blogger Clay, at October 08, 2009 7:36 PM  

  • Clay,

    Take a look at the 2006 study yourself. Much of the estimates of individual pieces appear to be based on pretty detailed information. The civil stuff (which isn't included in my analysis above) has backup for the backup.

    And as I said, they included a 60% contingency. They may not have been using a textbook definition of ROM, but it was still very rough, and it stall came out a billion dolars less than the 2009 estimate of supposedly the same items.

    Nonetheless, whatever the methodology, two things are apparent:

    1) A billion dollar discrepancy in items which are essentially the same and only separated by a couple of years demands explanation.

    2) We would be able to determine what inflation is going on if we had the complete 2009 study.

    By Blogger mcbrid35, at October 09, 2009 6:17 AM  

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