Prairie State coal plant ready to go commercial this summer

Unit 1 at the new, coal-fired Prairie State power plant in Illinois should see a start of commercial operation around June 1, with Unit 2 likely to go commercial within about a month after that, said Marc Gerken, President and CEO of American Municipal Power (AMP).

AMP, based in Ohio, is one of several partners in Prairie State, a minemouth plant what was originally developed by Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU), the nation’s largest coal producer. Peabody still has minority stakes in the plant and the adjacent Lively Grove coal mine, which is ramping up its coal production as the power plant works through a shakedown period and readies for commercial production.

Gerken, in a March 20 conversation on the sidelines of Energy Central’s EnergyBiz Leadership Forum, noted that Peabody is an advisor for the coal mine (Peabody had a nearby mine that it shut years ago) because of its mining experience, but Peabody doesn’t act as a contract mine operator. The equipment is held, and the mine workforce is employed, directly by the power plant partners.

Prairie State consists of two supercritical units with a nominal net output capacity of 800 MW each. Over 200 million tons of recoverable coal located adjacent to the power plant will fuel it. This amount is adequate to supply the campus for 30 years at about 6.5 million tons per year. Continuous mining methods will be employed using room-and-pillar methods.

The Lively Grove mine, located in Washington County, is listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration under Prairie State Generating Co. LLC. The mine got a production start in the first quarter of 2011 and turned out 1 million tons during the rest of that year, MSHA data shows.

Its stake in Prairie State helps AMP make up for the loss of its old Gorsuch coal plant, located on the Ohio River in Ohio. That plant was shut in late 2010 under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pressure about air emissions.

Gerken noted that AMP is close to a decision to tear out the old Gorsuch facility. In the meantime, it has started permitting a 50-MW, gas-fired peaker at the Gorsuch site and may add to that initial gas capacity at some point in the future. Also, there is an old dock on the river where coal used to come in to the power plant. AMP has maintained that dock and may be able to rent it out as a rail-to-river and/or river-to-rail transloading facility for coal and other bulk commodities.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.