Midwest Generation wins delay in Waukegan scrubber project

Midwest Generation LLC won an Aug. 23 decision from the Illinois Pollution Control Board that will allow it some leeway in meeting a state clean-air mandate at its coal-fired Waukegan power plant in Lake County, Ill.

Midwest Generation, controlled by Edison International (NYSE: EIX), had on April 10 sought from the board a variance for twelve months from Dec. 31, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2014, for an electric generating unit (EGU) located at Waukegan. The requested variance would extend the compliance dates in the state’s “Combined Pollutant Standard: Control Technology Requirements for NOx, SO2, and PM Emissions.”

As applicable to Waukegan Unit 7, the Combined Pollutant Standard (CPS) would require the installation of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) equipment and the conversion of the hot-side electrostatic precipitator (ESP) on that unit by Dec. 31, 2013.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told the board that it found the facts and emission calculations in the petition to be accurate, and that the requested variance “is expected to result in a net environmental benefit.” No hearing was requested or held concerning the petition.

The board found in its Aug. 23 decision that requiring Midwest Generation to timely comply with the Dec. 31, 2013, deadline for Waukegan Unit 7 would impose an “arbitrary and unreasonable hardship.” Also, the board noted that the grant of this one-year variance will not result in an overall increase of emissions from Midwest Generation’s facilities. Due to the early shutdowns this year of the coal-fired unit at the Fisk plant in Chicago and the coal-fired units at the Crawford plant in Chicago, even with the compliance delay at Waukegan Unit 7, there will be an overall reduction of Midwest Generation’s emissions.

During the one-year term of the variance, the board found that the significant reductions in SO2 and particulate matter (PM) emissions, as well as NOx emissions, mitigate the estimated 20 pound increase in mercury emissions, noting that the mercury emissions remain subject to control requirements.

In asking for the one-year extension, Midwest Generation pointed to two “unanticipated conditions.”

  • First, Midwest Generation claimed that “energy market prices” have been “significantly deteriorating” and new federal environmental regulations “have made long-term investment in the smallest generating units…questionable.”
  • Second, Midwest Generation determined through bidding future construction work that “it can gain cost and other efficiencies” by installing FGD equipment on Waukegan Unit 7 concurrently with Waukegan Unit 8 which is due to be retrofitted by Dec. 31, 2014. Midwest Generation said none of these conditions was foreseen when the CPS was adopted, and therefore these CPS provisions impose an undue economic hardship on it.

The Waukegan units went online between 1952 and 1962 and can generate about 781 MW (net). The CPS applies to three EGUs at the Waukegan station: Units 6-8. Unit 6 was shut down in 2007. The remaining two units fire coal as their primary fuel and natural gas as auxiliary fuel during startup and for flame stabilization. Particulate emissions from each unit are controlled by an ESP. The ESP for Waukegan Unit 7 is a hot-side ESP. Mercury emissions are controlled by activated carbon injection (ACI). SO2 emissions are controlled by using very low-sulfur coal.

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.