Ameren Missouri permits big new coal waste area for Labadie

Union Electric, d/b/a Ameren Missouri, applied Jan. 24 at the Missouri Public Service Commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to expand the boundaries of its coal-fired Labadie Energy Center, so that it can construct and operate a utility waste landfill.

The additional land is needed at this time so that the company can construct and operate a utility waste landfill (UWL) to replace the plant’s existing waste impoundments (commonly referred to as ash ponds), which are nearing capacity. The additional land covers around 813 acres, which will be used for the proposed UWL and thereafter for other plant operations, as needed.

The original CCN for the Labadie Energy Center authorized the construction, operation and maintenance of Ameren Missouri’s largest coal-fired power plant, located in an unincorporated area of Franklin County, Mo. Labadie began operating in 1970 and today consists of four coal-fired steam units and related facilities. The plant has a total generating capacity of about 2,400 MW, which is equivalent to approximately 40% of the company’s native load requirements.

Labadie produces coal combustion products (CCPs) that must be recycled or disposed of. Since the plant began operations, Ameren Missouri has stored the CCPs in ash ponds located at the existing plant site. When feasible, the company has also recycled these materials for use as an ingredient in cement, for use in road construction and for other beneficial uses.

In 2004, the company began studying various alternatives to provide storage for future CCPs once the existing ash ponds are filled to capacity, which is expected to occur in early 2016. The Company retained a consulting engineer (Reitz & Jens), and evaluated 22 sites across the region for construction of a new UWL. The company also considered the option of transporting Labadie CCPs to a licensed landfill owned and operated by a third party.

“Ultimately the Company determined that the best option which minimized cost as well as environmental and land use impacts, was construction of a Company-owned landfill on land adjacent to the current land occupied by the Labadie Energy Center,” said the application.

This will be a large waste area with about 24 years of capacity

The new UWL will be large. It will contain about 16.5 million cubic yards of airspace, and when fully constructed there will be four different cells with a combined capacity of around 15.5 million cubic yards. It is estimated that the four cells will be constructed over a period of 15-20 years (construction of one cell about every five years), with construction of the first cell scheduled to begin in early 2014. The UWL is expected to meet the company’s ash disposal needs at Labadie for about 24 years at current and estimated future disposal rates.

Ameren Missouri said it expects to receive the last of the required permits and approvals in approximately one year, which will allow it to begin construction of the UWL at the start of the 2014 construction season, which in turn will allow construction to be complete prior to the time when the existing ash ponds are expected to reach capacity in early 2016.

While it is possible that the estimated date by which the existing ash ponds will be full could be slightly later than currently estimated, the estimate is likely to be accurate since Labadie is a baseload plant that is operated almost constantly, either to serve native load or to make off-system sales.

“It is important to obtain all approvals (including this request for a CCN) and to adhere to the proposed construction schedule because if the existing ash ponds are filled before the new facility is ready to receive CCPs, the Company will have to incur the considerable expense of disposing of the CCPs in an off-site facility owned by a third party, raising expenses for the Company and ultimately customers,” the company noted. “Moreover, transportation of the CCPs to such a facility is likely to create adverse impacts in the vicinity of the plant, such as increased truck traffic.”

Labadie is fired primarily with Powder River Basin coal, with U.S. Energy Information Administration data showing that coal suppliers last year included Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) out of the North Antelope Rochelle mine and Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) out of its Black Thunder operation.

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.