AEP retires some coal capacity, targets more for the future

During 2011, no changes were made to the operating status of the 10 coal units American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) had put into “extended startup” status for nine non-peak months of the year, which included several AEP Ohio units including Picway 5, Muskingum 4, and Sporn 4 and 5.

Sporn 5 was permanently closed in early 2012. In 2011, Kammer continued to operate in a “substitute operation” mode, in which only two of three units are operated at one time, noted consultant Energy Ventures Analysis in a fuel audit filed May 24 at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The commission had ordered this annual audit as part of a fuel review case.

Columbus Southern Power (CSP) and Ohio Power (OPCO) are both wholly-owned subsidiaries of AEP. Fuel procurement for both companies is handled by American Electric Power Service Corp. (AEPSC).  Effective Jan. 1, the merger between CSP and OPCO was completed. Since the audit period covers 2011, the audit continues to refer to CSP and OPCO the individual companies and AEP Ohio when referring to the combined companies.

On March 22, AEP officially notified PJM of the company’s plan to retire more than 4,000 MW of coal capacity in the PJM system. AEP was required to file its plan for plant retirements prior to PJM’s auction in May that will set electric generation capacity prices for June 2015 through May 2016. This plan differs slightly from anticipated retirements AEP announced in June 2011. The differences are due to the retirement of the 450-MW Sporn Unit 5 in February (which was included in the June 2011 plan), EVA noted In its notifications to PJM, AEP indicated it plans to retire the following units:

  • Conesville Unit 3, Conesville, Ohio – 165 MW;
  • Big Sandy Unit 1, Louisa, Ky. – 278 MW;
  • Clinch River Unit 3, Cleveland, Va. – 235 MW;
  • Glen Lyn (two units). Glen Lyn, W.Va. – 335 MW;
  • Kammer (three units), Moundsville, W.Va. – 630 MW;
  • Kanawha River (two units), Glasgow, W.Va. – 400 MW;
  • Muskingum River Units 1-4, Beverly, Ohio – 840 MW;
  • Picway (one unit), Lockboume, Ohio – 100 MW;
  • Philip Sporn (four units), New Haven, W.Va. – 600 MW, and
  • Tanners Creek Units 1-3, Lawrenceburg, Ind. – 495 MW.

AEP indicated it plans to retire Conesville Unit 3 by Dec. 31, 2012, and the other units by June 1, 2015. Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) has announced its plans to retire Walter C. Beckjord Unit 6, in which AEP Ohio is a minority owner. PJM must approve the retirements to insure system stability and performance.

AEP Ohio coal plants show mixed results in 2011

Here are the AEP Ohio coal plants and how they have fared lately:

Conesville – consists of four units with a total generating capacity of 1,745 MW. Units 1 and 2 were retired in 2005. Conesville Unit 3 has not been retrofitted with a scrubber and is now scheduled to be retired by the end of 2012. Conesville Unit 4’s retrofit was completed in 2009 but this was one of the retrofits that encountered unexpected operating results. Conesville Units 5 and 6 were built with scrubbers , which were upgraded in 2009 to comply with a New Source Review legal settlement. Coal to this station is delivered by truck and rail. The Conesville Coal Preparation Plant was closed in January 2012 which eliminated deliveries by conveyor. Generation in 2011 improved somewhat over 2009 and 2010 levels but the plant is still operating at a capacity factor (47.1% in 2011) below 50%. AEP Ohio indicated that the high delivered cost of coal to Conesville Units 3 and 4 has limited the plant’s dispatch. Notable is that a major local supplier to the Conesville power plant is Oxford Resource Partners LP (NYSE: OXF). The Conesville power plant consumed 3.3 million tons of coal in 2011, up from 3 million tons in 2010.

Picway – is AEP Ohio’s smallest coal plant. Coal is delivered to this Ohio station by rail or truck. This plant is not equipped with any advanced pollution control equipment and is included in the list of plants that AEP intends to retire by June 1, 2015. Generation in 2011 was about the same as it was in 2010. Coal consumption was 49,912 tons in 2011, up from 36,965 tons in 2010.

Gavin – consists of two units with a total generating capacity of 2,640 MW. These units were retrofit with scrubbers in the early 1990s. All coal to this station is currently delivered by barge. Generation in 2011 was down about 4% over 2010 levels. This is OPCO’s largest station, consistently burning more than 7 million tons of coal per year. Coal consumption was 7.4 million tons in 2011, down from 8.1 million tons in 2010.

Kammer – consists of three, 210-MW coal-fired units. The Kammer boilers are cyclones and as such require a lower fusion coal, consistent with the high sulfur local coal they were designed to burn. Compliance with clean air regulations has been a challenge for Kammer because low sulfur bituminous coals typically have a high ash fusion temperature. AEP planned to switch to a blend of 80/20 Powder River Basin/eastern bituminous coals but abandoned this plan for several reasons including concerns about selenium in the ash. The Kammer units have not been retrofitted with advanced pollution control equipment. All three units at Kammer are included in AEP’s recent retirement announcement. Utilization of this plant has declined significantly in the last three years. Generation and coal burn were up slightly in 2011 but the plant’s capacity factor is still very low. Coal consumption was 870,993 tons in 2011, and 760,947 tons in 2010.

Mitchell – is located adjacent to Kammer in Moundsville, W.Va. Mitchell consists of two units with a combined capacity of 1,560 MW. This plant receives coal by belt, rail and barge. The plant was retrofitted with scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) in 2007. Generation and coal burn in 2011 were down by about 10% year on year. Coal consumption was 3.6 million tons last year, down from 4 million tons in 2010.

Muskingum River – is located in Beverly, Ohio, and consists of five units. The four smallest units are wet bottom boilers which require a lower fusion coal. Unit 5, the newest and largest boiler, is a dry bottom supercritical unit which can burn high fusion coals. This plant receives coal by rail, as the Muskingum River is not navigable for barge deliveries. None of the units has been retrofit with scrubbers; Unit 5 has an SCR. Muskingum River Units 1-4 are on AEP’s list of retirements, which is not surprising given their size, age, boiler design and uncontrolled operation, EVA noted. Muskingum River Unit 5 is not on the latest retirement list but EVA was previously informed that a scrubber would most likely be needed for continued operations and engineering work on that is not underway. The plant’s utilization fell in 2011. Coal consumption was 2.4 million tons in 2011, down from 2.7 million tons in 2010.

Cardinal – is located on the Ohio River in Ohio and consists of three units. Unit 1 is owned by Ohio Power: Units 2 and 3 are owned by Buckeye Power. Unit 1 was retrofit with a scrubber in 2008; Unit 2 was retrofit with a scrubber in 2007. The Cardinal 1 scrubber was one of the scrubbers that did not perform as designed. AEPSC buys coal for the entire station. This plant receives coal by barge and rail. Cardinal Unit 1 generation fell by almost 20% in 2011. The space in the audit report for Unit 1’s coal consumption in 2011 was blank, though the unit is shown as having produced significant electricity in 2011, with 2010 coal consumption at 1.3 million tons.

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.