Consumers Energy coal burn to plunge starting in 2015

The coal burn of Consumers Energy is projected to plunge in the 2012-2016 period from a peak of 9.6 million tons in 2014, to 7.3 million tons in 2016, due largely to the planned shutdown starting in 2015 of seven coal units at the BC Cobb, JC Weadock and JR Whiting plants.

Coal burn and cost projections for the period are buried in 182 pages of supplemental testimony that Consumers Energy, a unit of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), filed Oct. 19 at the Michigan Public Service Commission as part of a Power Supply Cost Recovery case begun in September 2011.

The projected coal burn figures are 9.3 million tons in 2012, 9.4 million tons in 2013, 9.6 million tons in 2014, 7.7 million tons in 2015 and 7.3 million tons in 2016. Zero coal burn is shown in 2016 at BC Cobb Units 4-5, JC Weadock Units 7-8 and JR Whiting Units 1-3. The coal burn of the surviving units – JH Campbell Units 1-3 and DE Karn Unit 2 – are projected to a pick up a bit as the other units are shut, but not nearly enough to make up for the unit losses. At the same time, the natural gas burn at DE Karn Units 3-4 and the Zeeland power plant is projected to jump sharply as the coal units are shut.

In a Sept. 28 filing by the utility at the Michigan PSC to open its latest annual Power Supply Cost Recovery case, Consumers Energy gave more details on coal procurement and shutdown plans. On a system-wide basis, the utility expects to burn about 8.4 million tons of western (Powder River Basin) coal or about 97% by weight of its total coal burn requirements in 2013, said the Sept. 28 filing. The company presently has a single eastern coal contract in effect for 2013 for 264,000 tons that started in January 2012 and runs through the end of 2014. Because of the anticipated low cost of gas in 2013, eastern coal is only projected to be used during periods of high electricity demand when the high-Btu eastern coal is necessary to achieve full capability from the coal units.

The projected 2013 coal burns in the Sept. 28 filing were:

JH Campbell Units 1-2 (1.6 million tons);

JH Campbell Unit 3 (2.6 million tons, Consumers Energy 93% share of unit ownership only);

BC Cobb Units 4-5 (812,558 tons);

DE Karn Units 1-2 (1.7 million tons);

JC Weadock Units 7-8 (926,097 tons); and

JR Whiting Units 1-3 (862,508 tons).

Consumers Energy also offered in the Sept,. 28 filing annual coal burn projections for the 2014-2017 period. Due to the planned mothballing of these units in April 2015, BC Cobb Units 4-5, JC Weadock Units 7-8 and JR Whiting Units 1-3 are shown with zero coal burn in 2016 and 2017.

The Consumers coal-fired units and net power ratings are:

  • JH Campbell 1-2, 615 MW, West Olive, MI;
  • JH Campbell 3, 770 MW (owned share), West Olive, MI;
  • DE Karn 1-2, 515 MW, Essexville, MI;
  • BC Cobb 4-5, 312 MW, Muskegon, MI;
  • JR Whiting 1-3, 325 MW, Erie, MI; and
  • JC Weadock 7-8, 310 MW, Essexville, MI.

At Campbell Unit 3, Consumers owns 93%, with other entities owning the remaining 7%. Thus the 770 MW capacity reported is 93% of the unit size.

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.