Dominion applies for conversion of Bremo plant from coal to gas

Dominion Virginia Power, which is has been planning this move for some time, said Sept. 5 that it has filed a formal application with the Virginia State Corporation Commission to convert the 227-MW Bremo power plant from coal to natural gas.

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Richmond, Va., -based Dominion (NYSE: D), which has a generating portfolio of approximately 28,000 MW.

This would be the ninth company-owned, coal-fired power station announced in recent years with units to be closed or converted to alternative fuels. Three small coal plants in Virginia, for example, are currently being converted to biomass. They are Southampton County, Altavista and Hopewell.

In its application filed with the commission (SCC), Dominion noted that it had agreed to stop using coal and convert the 227-MW, two-unit Bremo power station by spring 2014 as part of the air permit for the new, largely coal-fired Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center. Virginia Center went into service in July. If the SCC approves the estimated $53.4m Bremo conversion, the company would cease burning coal at the station in the fall of 2013.

The emission reductions from the conversion would be in addition to Dominion’s efforts already under way in Virginia to reduce emissions of SO2, NOx and mercury from existing stations by 75% to 85% by 2015.

The conversion is projected to save customers about $32m when compared with the cost of building new generation and will save them $155m when compared to continued operation on coal. Bremo entered service in 1931, and the two units now in use were put into service in 1950 and 1958, respectively.

Dominion has announced plans to shut down or convert all or part of five other coal-fired power stations and convert three small units to biomass. Coal-fired power stations that are scheduled to close by 2015 are Chesapeake and two units at Yorktown in Virginia, and North Branch in West Virginia. The three small Virginia stations being converted to biomass by 2014 are Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County.

The company this year closed the merchant State Line coal-fired power station in Indiana and announced the closing by June 2014 of the merchant coal- and oil-fired Salem Harbor power station in Massachusetts, which it subsequently sold.

New environmental regulations that would have required costly expenditures to retrofit emission control equipment plus the low price and availability of natural gas as an alternative fuel has made operating smaller, older coal-fired stations uneconomical, Dominion noted.

Dominion nails down EPC contract, gas supply

The company compared the Bremo conversion to three different alternatives: new generation, market purchases and continued operations at Bremo on coal. The analysis found the conversion of Bremo Units 3 and 4 to natural gas to be the best option.

The Bremo conversion will require major unit modifications to the existing Bremo plant. The scope of the conversion will include boiler modifications required for gas-fired generation, new environmental equipment, new fuel handling facilities for natural gas, and additional major unit modifications to several other balance of plant systems. A competitive bid process to secure engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor services has resulted in a fixed-price contract for the majority of the work, the application said.

The converted plant will be supplied via a new gas pipeline lateral and gas metering and pressure regulating station that will be constructed, owned, operated, and maintained by Columbia Gas of Virginia (CGV). Specifically, there is an existing natural gas pipeline located south of the Bremo station across the James River, adjacent to the company’s new Bear Garden Generating Station. The company has executed construction and supply agreements with CGV to install approximately 1.5 miles of new lateral pipeline to support Bremo Units 3 and 4 post-conversion. CGV has an interconnect with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., which will provide Bremo access to a long-haul natural gas interstate pipeline corridor that stretches from Texas to New York.

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.