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Electrifying Progress: Con J. Franke Electric Powers Northern California's First-of-Its-Kind Brackish Water Desalination Plant

January 03, 2024

Con J. Franke Electric is proud to highlight our contribution to a first-of-its-kind brackish water desalination facility in Northern California. The project, named the Antioch Brackish Water Desalination Plant, was undertaken from 2021 to 2023 with a total project value of approximately $93,000,000 of which $17,000,000 was allocated to electrical work.

The project involved the installation of three new medium voltage pumps that extract water from the Sacramento River Delta in Antioch, CA, and subsequently pump the brackish water to Antioch’s Water Treatment Plant. The water is then filtered, treated, and sanitized before being distributed through the city’s water distribution pipeline to Antioch’s customers in eastern Contra Costa County.

At the Antioch Water Treatment Plant, the project included the construction of a brand-new Reverse Osmosis treatment building, a new chemical injection building, and updating the existing filter treatment system.

Within the Reverse Osmosis Building, Con J. Franke Electric installed 480-volt (v) switchgear, transformers, motor control centers, VFDs, and custom control panels. TESCO Controls Inc, our subcontractor, fabricated and programmed these control panels and provided hundreds of new instruments and analyzers, such as flowmeters, chlorine analyzers, pressure gauges, and transmitters.

Additionally, the project included the provision and installation of new 21 kilovolt (kV) main switchgear and upgraded Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) service to the site. There were also upgrades to various electrical distribution equipment, including the installation of new 15 kV paralleling switchgear; multiple generators, ranging in size from 100 kilowatts (kW) to 1,500 kW; and pad-mounted transformers as large as 7,500 kW.

Offsite work included upgrading Antioch’s existing River Pump Station where new medium voltage pumps reach into the Sacramento River Delta to extract brackish river water at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. River Pump Station also received its own PG&E service upgrade and new 5 kV switchgear, medium voltage variable frequency drives (VFDs), and transformers.

Throughout the project, Con J. Franke Electric had a dedicated onsite crew of up to 20 individuals, led by General Foreman Dave Ehrhardt, with support from foremen Mark Steelman and Sean Rode. Our estimating team, led by Lew Frain and Barry Frain, worked diligently from the bid/estimating process to the close-out stage. In addition, office staff supporting this project comprised a cohesive team effort, including project managers Erik Niewald and Nicco Chavez, and two project administrators.

Due to residual impacts of supply chain shortages, and fallout from external factors such as the pandemic and the war in the Ukraine, the project encountered challenges with rising raw material and commodities costs. Over the course of this multi-year project, basic material and component prices increased by as much as 30%, leading to adjustments in the project scope and cost.

The most positive aspect of this project lies in its impact on the region’s water supply and the remarkable technical nature of the project itself. As a first-of-its-kind facility in a region with limited water resources and frequent droughts, it is gratifying for Con J. Franke Electric to be associated with a project that few contractors can undertake.

The Antioch Brackish Water Desalination Plant is a crucial addition to the region, addressing the limited water resources and contributing to water sustainability in Northern California. By providing a reliable source of brackish water, the plant ensures a consistent water supply for the community of Antioch and represents a significant step towards managing water scarcity and environmental concerns.

One of the major challenges faced during the project was the coordination between the design and operational needs of the plant and the existing infrastructure of the utility company, PG&E. The unique nature of the facility, coupled with the limited experience of stakeholders, including engineers, owners, and contractors, in constructing such a facility at this scale, necessitated careful coordination and collaboration to ensure seamless integration.

Con J. Franke Electric’s involvement with the Antioch Brackish Water Desalination Plant exemplifies our commitment to delivering innovative and sustainable solutions in the field of commercial electrical engineering. Through our expertise and dedication on this project, we are proud to have contributed to the long-term benefits for the community and the environment.

For more updates on Con J. Franke Electric’s projects involving the latest in commercial electrical innovation, stay tuned to our website and blog.