R C Cape May nears air approvals for coal-to-gas conversion

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is taking public comment until March 6 on draft air permitting that would allow R C Cape May Holdings LLC to get rid of coal- and oil-fired capacity at the B.L. England power plant in Cape May County and build new gas-fired capacity in its place.

R C Cape May (RCCM) submitted an application in August 2012 for a federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit, a significant modification to the Title V State Operating Permit and a modification to the Acid Rain permit to replace 440 MW of coal- and oil-fired units with gas-fired facilities. “Replacement units would include a (nominal) 430-MW natural gas fired combined-cycle unit, increasing the plant capacity to 580 MW,” said a DEP fact sheet. “Construction of the Project is scheduled to be completed within 30 months after receiving the final air permit approvals.”

The proposed project will consist of one combined-cycle combustion turbine (CCCT) consisting of one Siemens STG6-8000H combined-cycle combustion turbine generator (CTG), one heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) equipped with duct burner, one existing steam turbine electric generator (STG) and one auxiliary boiler. “The facility will retire existing coal fired Unit 1 and Unit 2 by September 30, 2013 and May 1, 2015, respectively,” the DEP noted. “Additionally, the facility will voluntarily convert existing Unit 3 from No. 6 oil firing to natural gas.”

The CTG and duct burner will use only natural gas as fuel. The combustion turbine will have a maximum rated heat input of 2,908 million British thermal units per hour (MM Btu/hr) at an ambient temperature of -8 °F, based on high heating value of fuel (HHV) (not including supplemental duct-firing). Supplemental duct firing will add up to 400 MM Btu/hr. Total heat input would be limited to 3,027 MM Btu/hr (HHV). The nominal electrical output of the CCCT is 430 MW at ISO conditions, including the steam turbine output, DEP noted.

Combined-cycle electric output and fuel use will vary with ambient temperature, relative humidity and certain other operating conditions such as the amount of duct firing in the HRSG. Ancillary equipment will include a new 91.6-MM Btu/hr auxiliary boiler.

Unit 3 is currently limited to 1,720 MM Btu/hr while firing No. 6 fuel oil. The maximum heat input would be 1,792.5 MM Btu/hr once it is converted to natural gas, and annual operation would be limited to the equivalent heat input of 1,200 hours per year at full load (2,151,000 MM Btu/year). This is a reduction from the current 15,067,200 allowable heat input based on 8,760 hours per year operation.

The B.L. England facility is owned by RCCM and is operated by North American Energy Services, the DEP said.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows the plant taking coal last year from CONSOL Energy‘s (NYSE: CNX) Bailey mine complex in southwest Pennsylvania.

End of coal burn part of Clean Air Act deal with the state

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin in June 2012 announced a deal to end coal use at the plant. Under that deal, R C Cape May will shut down one coal-burning unit at B.L. England under the terms of an Administrative Consent Order with the DEP. The company will repower a second coal unit to a state-of-the-art combined-cycle natural gas turbine and will re-fuel a third, oil-burning unit with natural gas. The conversion will nearly eliminate emissions of smog-causing NOx as well as SO2. The two coal-fired units at B.L. England are the last coal-fired units in the state without state-of-the art pollution control equipment.

“The Christie administration is committed to improving the quality of air in New Jersey, taking a tough stance on holding in-state and out-of-state power plants accountable for reducing air pollution in New Jersey,” Martin said at the time. He was referring to Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. “This agreement will bring one of the oldest plants here in New Jersey into the 21st century, and keep it there for a long time to come with extremely low emissions.”

Jim Maiz, Senior Vice President for RC Cape May Holdings, said: “We wish to thank all the state agencies and local officials for their ongoing support of our efforts to identify and implement the most fitting clean-energy redevelopment plan for B.L. England. This transformative solution provides the best alignment with the overall objectives of all stakeholders, and we’re committed to seeing it through.”

RC Cape May has owned the plant since 2007. The agreement resolves alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act that occurred when the plant was under the ownership of Atlantic ElectricConectiv and Pepco Holdings. The previous owners did not make pollution-control upgrades as required by the federal Clean Air Act when they made significant upgrades to operational features of the plant, the DEP noted.

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.