Prairie State starts operating first 800-MW coal unit

The first of two units that will burn Illinois Basin coal at a 1,600-MW mine-mouth power plant in Washington County, Ill., started operation June 6, Prairie State Generating Co. (PSGC) said recently.

Prairie State Generating is owned by eight Midwest public power agencies and Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU). American Municipal Power (AMP) holds the largest share of any owner.

The second Prairie State unit is expected to entered commercial operation in late 2012, the company said. Everything should be in commercial operation in 2013, the generating company added.

The two-unit coal station is the largest coal plant to be built in the United States since 1982. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal producer, did much of the early development work on Prairie State.

Bechtel is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project.

The decision by the owners in 2007 to begin construction of the PSGC was based on sound long-term forecasts showing electricity costs from the plant would be very competitive with other fuels such as nuclear and natural gas over the anticipated 30-plus year life of the facility, which remains the case today, even with some operating delays, the company said in a June 6 news release.

The plant is located about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Prairie State Generating invested $1bn in emissions controls to ensure that the plant meets U.S. EPA as well as state environmental regulations. The plant is equipped with selective catalytic reduce (SCR) technology, dry electrostatic precipitators, SO2 scrubbers and wet electrostatic precipitators, according to the plant website.

The power plant will consume roughly 6.5 million tons of coal per year from the adjacent mine. Prairie State’s Lively Grove coal mine extracts coal from the Herrin #6 seam.

Prairie State is hardly the only new coal-fired power plant expected to start commercial operation over the next few months. Dominion (NYSE: D) is putting the finishing touches on its Virginia City Hybrid coal-and-biomass plant in Virginia. Meanwhile, Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) has nearly completed construction of its Edwardsport IGCC in Indiana and its new Cliffside coal unit in North Carolina.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.