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OPP 07-001 December 2006

Construction highlights, 2006-2007

  1. McMurdo Power and Water Plant Upgrade. The current McMurdo Power Plant, completed and brought on line in 1982, is the only centralized power generation plant for the station. Emergency power is provided by distributed units, which are not capable of providing power to all of the station. Consequently, any significant failure in the power plant would require shutting down a portion of the station.  Critical equipment, such as the switchgear in the McMurdo Power Plant, has operated past its life expectancy; spares are difficult and sometimes impossible to obtain.  A single failure in the system could result in the inability to generate or distribute power to the station. Power is generated using Cat D-399 engines that are fuel inefficient compared to modern engines. Also, no waste heat is recovered from the exhaust gases, resulting in inefficient use of fuel resources. 

    The plant upgrades will add redundancy to the power and water systems by placing both power generation and water production in each plant, eliminating the single point of failure scenario for both systems without increasing the footprint on the station.  By using more efficient engines and adding heat recovery from both the engine and exhaust gases, USAP will decrease the fuel required to operate the station.

    Water plant construction activities will continue through the 2007 austral winter with conditional occupancy scheduled for October 2007. Phase II of the power plant construction will begin during the 2007-2008 austral summer with final acceptance scheduled for January 2010.

  2. McMurdo MoGas (Motor Gasoline) Upgrade. The Mogas Upgrade Project is a complete design and rebuild effort to modernize McMurdo Station's fuel systems. The project will replace the existing tank (M-3) and dispensing station. The pipeline portion will tie-in at the distribution center near the ice pier and terminate at the new tanks in the pass. Construction activities include installation of 6,300 feet of carbon steel pipe, erection of three 250,000-gallon, single-wall, steel storage tanks, containment berms, and related electrical, control and operational elements. The tanks were installed in the 2005-2006 austral summer; distribution and dispensing systems were designed in 2006. Construction will be completed during the 2007-2008 austral summer.

  3. McMurdo Fuel Tanks Upgrade. This project will add four 2-million gallon fuel storage tanks, one 2-million gallon redundant tank and associated distribution systems at McMurdo. Currently, a fuel tanker delivers petroleum products to McMurdo station every year. The additional storage capacity will help mitigate risks if there are circumstances that delay or prevent the scheduled tanker's arrival.  Installation of additional fuel tanks at McMurdo station will also provide sufficient storage capacity to potentially skip delivery of fuel every fourth year. The project includes the construction of a pump house to transfer fuel from the redundant tank back to the existing and proposed storage tanks.

  4. McMurdo Station Satellite Communications Upgrade, or the "McMurdo Wide Area Network Bandwidth Improvement" (MWBI) project.  All primary voice and data traffic for McMurdo Station to the continental U.S. is provided by a sophisticated microwave link to the Black Island Telecommunications Facility (BITF). The location of Black Island, about 22 miles south of McMurdo Station, allows unobstructed communication signals. The BITF houses all communication and satellite equipment required to relay communications with a satellite orbiting over the equator.  Much of the BITF equipment has not been upgraded since installation over 14 years ago and is now obsolete.  For some components, spare parts no longer existed.

    To improve the McMurdo wide area network bandwidth, NSF sponsored a two season project. During the 2005-2006 austral summer, the MWBI project made modifications or updates to 15 different communication subsystems, doubled the communication bandwidth from 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps, increased the number of simultaneous outbound phone lines by one third, and upgraded critical life safety communications equipment.  The PBX TDM channels were also converted to Voice over IP.  The MWBI VoIP solution via satellite was a first. Even with the increase in phone lines, the VoIP solution reduces the total bandwidth required to support the previous TDM system.  Additionally, when the phone lines are not in use, that phone bandwidth is dynamically released to the general bandwidth pool to support an increase in data throughput for the station.  During 2006-2007 austral summer, the MWBI project will install new microwave and carrier multiplexor systems.  These implementations, mostly transparent to the McMurdo communities, will conclude the lifecycle upgrade of critical communications equipment and facilitate better operability, reliability, scalability, and maintainability of the McMurdo communication system. 

  5. South Pole Modernization Project.  Major construction and renovation are under way to replace most of the 30-year-old South Pole Station’s central facilities, which have exceeded their design life and cannot meet projected science demands.  Construction to date has included a new fuel storage facility, a new garage and shop, a new electric power plant, the kitchen and dining room, some of the living facilities, station services, medical facilities, science labs, emergency power plant, store/post office, food-growth chamber, and computer lab. The 2005-2006 austral summer represented a major project milestone with conditional occupancy and transition of all related station operations into the new Elevated Station. In addition, the station’s old communication center was relocated from the Dome to the Elevated Station.

    Conditional occupancy of the Cryogen Laboratory, completion of the #3 water well, and upgrades of satellite signal equipment are scheduled for completion in January/February 2007.  Scheduled in 2008 are the completion of final siding of the elevated station, final power plant modifications to improve plant efficiency, and formal dedication of the station.  Construction of the Cargo Facility is scheduled to begin 2007-2008 with completion in 2008-2009.  SPTR-1 will be upgraded boosting the throughput from 5 Mbps to 45Mbps accommodating the ever increasing data transport demands of the scientific community. 

  6. Palmer Station Improvements.  A new 1,567-square-foot science research building was constructed during 200-2006 austral summer for electronic observations and the installation of the RASA observation station. Design for the replacement of the station’s pier will begin in 2007.

  7. National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Site Survey.  National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The NPOESS project will construct, operate, and maintain earth-station receptor(s) at McMurdo Station to receive NPOESS-stored mission data for the Department of Commerce, Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The project implementation work for the 2006/2007 season includes:

    • Define/upgrade McMurdo and Black Island infrastructure (power, network, etc), facilities, telecommunications, satellite communications equipment, and other services to meet the needs of the aforementioned agencies.
    • Conduct a survey of McMurdo for the development of the environmental assessment.
    • Investigate site for the design of roads, utilidors and pad placement for the receive-only earth stations.
    • Design a shelter for housing the upgraded electronics for the 7.2 meter Antenna, including structural, mechanical and electrical elements. 
    • Ship purchased Raytheon IIS antenna feed for 7.2 meter antenna from Port Hueneme to McMurdo station.