OPG shuts two Nanticoke units as part of coal phase-out

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is well along on implementation of the Ontario government’s policy to phase out coal-fired generation by the end of 2014, and as part of that program removed from service at the end of 2011 Units 1 and 2 (880 MW of capacity) at the Nanticoke plant.

Since 2010, a total of six OPG coal units have been shut down, OPG noted in a recently-released 2011 annual report. Since 2005, OPG’s coal-fired electricity production has been reduced by almost 90%. OPG is exploring the possibility of converting some coal units to cleaner burning biomass and natural gas.

In October 2010, OPG closed two coal-fired units at each of the Lambton and Nanticoke plants. In response to Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan and Supply Mix Directive, OPG removed from service two coal-fired units at Nanticoke on Dec. 31, 2011. “OPG is currently in the process of placing the units into a safe shutdown state,” the annual report added. “The early closure of these coal-fired units, in advance of the December 31, 2014 target deadline, is expected to result in staff reductions of 290 at the Nanticoke generating station and is expected to result in reduced payments to OPG from [Ontario Electricity Financial Corp.] under the contingency support agreement. OPG continues to evaluate the schedule for the remaining coal units while assessing the impact on staff and fuel inventories.”

The conversion of the Atikokan coal plant to biomass is currently in the definition phase. OPG and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) are negotiating the Atikokan Biomass Energy Supply Agreement. OPG is proceeding with detailed engineering, and the negotiation of an engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the conversion of Atikokan to biomass. The formal negotiation of fuel supply contracts began in October 2011 consistent with the progress of the ongoing energy supply agreement negotiations with the OPA.

The conversion of two coal units at the Thunder Bay plant to natural gas is in the definition phase. OPG is working on detailed engineering related to that conversion. In August 2011, the Minister of Energy issued a directive to the OPA to negotiate a long-term energy supply contract with OPG for the conversion of two coal units at Thunder Bay to natural gas. Discussions for a long-term supply contract with the OPA are ongoing.

As outlined in the Energy Plan and Supply Mix Directive, OPG is also exploring the possible conversion of some units at the Lambton and Nanticoke stations to natural gas with an option for co-firing with biomass, if required for system reliability. Due to the long lead-time required for a gas pipeline to the Nanticoke site, Union Gas Ltd. has begun conducting technical and environmental studies and public consultation leading to the identification of the pipeline route. Similar pipeline routing studies are also being undertaken for Lambton.

OPG said in its May 25 first-quarter earnings report that it and OPA are in the final stages of negotiating the Atikokan Biomass Energy Supply Agreement, and in the early stages of negotiating an Energy Supply Agreement for the Thunder Bay plant. OPG is proceeding with related detailed engineering work to burn biomass at Atikokan and natural gas at Thunder Bay.

OPG also said in the May 25 statement that it continues to explore the possible conversion of some units at Lambton and Nanticoke to natural gas, with an option for co-firing with biomass, if required for system reliability.

The OPG coal plants are:

  • Atikokan is located near the town of Atikokan in northwestern Ontario. It has one coal-fired unit that produces up to 211 MW using low-sulfur lignite coal from western Canada.
  • Nanticoke is located on the north shore of Lake Erie in Haldimand County, Ontario. Four of the station’s eight generators have been retired. The remaining four units are capable of producing 1,880 MW, said the OPG website.
  • Thunder Bay is located in the city of Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay’s two operating coal-fueled generators produce up to 306 MW using low-sulfur Powder River Basin sub-bituminous coal, said the website.
  • Lambton is located on the St. Clair River, in St. Clair Township, 26 kilometers south of Sarnia, Ontario. Its two operating units can produce 950 MW.

As of the end of 2011, OPG’s electricity generating portfolio had an in-service capacity of 19,051 MW. OPG operates three nuclear plants, five thermal generating stations, 65 hydroelectric stations and two wind power turbines. In addition, OPG and TransCanada Energy Ltd. co-own the Portlands Energy Centre gas-fired combined cycle station. OPG and ATCO Power Canada Ltd. co-own the Brighton Beach gas-fired combined cycle station. OPG also owns two other nuclear generating stations that are leased on a long-term basis to Bruce Power LP.

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.