FirstEnergy to shut coal, expand nuclear, renewables

Coal-fired capacity retirements and enhanced nuclear generation are among the key emissions control options being pursued by FirstEnergy Generation Corp., a unit of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE).

FirstEnergy Generation is not a public utility and its facilities are not owned or operated by a public utility subject to Public Utilities Commission of Ohio jurisdiction, the company said an environmental compliance plan update filed April 10 at the commission. However, the commission has indicated its position that FirstEnergy Generation is subject to the plan rule, so it submitted the plan in an “abundance of caution” and without waiving its arguments about the commission’s jurisdiction.

Since 1990, FirstEnergy has seen a 17% decrease in CO2 emissions. FirstEnergy said it has taken aggressive steps over the past two decades that have increased its generating capacity without adding to overall CO2 emissions. For example, since 1990, FirstEnergy has added more than 1,800 MW of non-emitting nuclear capacity, while avoiding CO2 emissions.

Currently about 70% of FirstEnergy’s coal-fired fleet is supercritical pulverized coal, operating at higher pressure (above the point where steam can separate from boiling water) and using less coal, with lower emissions, to produce electricity. FirstEnergy’s Ohio electric generating facilities emitted approximately 21 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2011.

Due to current and pending regulations, FirstEnergy has developed goals and strategies for reducing all air emissions, including CO2 emission reductions from its fossil facilities. It plans to achieve these reductions through numerous actions including fuel adjustments, new emission controls, possible reduced or seasonal use of select units as deemed necessary and the recently announced shutdown of nine coal-fired plants, including the anticipated shutdown of 10 Ohio units (Ashtabula, Bay Shore 2-4, Eastlake 1-5, Lakeshore). These shutdowns are pending review by PJM, the filing noted.

FirstEnergy has also developed goals for increased generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar, while maintaining reliable electricity delivery to customers. In Ohio, the company agreed to purchase 100 MW of output from the Blue Creek Wind Farm, the first large-scale wind operation to begin construction in Ohio.

Also, in collaboration with Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, British Columbia, FirstEnergy is conducting a multi-year test of a utility-scale fuel cell unit in Eastlake, Ohio, that uses hydrogen for fuel and oxygen from the air. The system produces 1 MW of electricity efficiently and without combustion – enough to power some 600 homes – with only heat and water as byproducts.

FirstEnergy said it also continues to invest in research and development projects that may help further reduce emissions.

  • FirstEnergy has worked with Powerspan Corp. in the design of an ECO2 process to concentrate and remove CO2 from fossil-fired unit flue gas exhaust.
  • FirstEnergy funded the development of a carbon capture technology known as the “Chilled Ammonia Process” through the Electric Power Research Institute.
  • FirstEnergy participated with Babcock & Wilcox in its pilot demonstration of oxy-coal combustion, replacing combustion air with oxygen to concentrate CO2 for capture and sequestration.
  • FirstEnergy participated with Independence Bio-Products on a pilot facility using algae to capture CO2 from ECO flue gas.
  • FirstEnergy is a partner in the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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.