The plan by Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power to switch its little-used Bremo coal plant to firing natural gas meets a number of positive criteria and should be approved, said a May 8 report from Virginia State Corporation Commission hearing examiner Howard Johnson Jr.
Johnson’s recommended approval was the first filing in this docket since January. The commission is taking comment on the recommendation until May 29. The application in this case was initially filed in September 2012.
Dominion Virginia Power’s existing Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County currently uses coal to fuel its boilers. Bremo (also known as Bremo Bluff), located on the James River, has been in operation since 1931 and currently has two active coal-fired units. Unit 3 has a net capacity of 71 MW and Unit 4 has a net capacity of 156 MW, making Bremo among the smallest coal-fired plants in the company’s generating fleet.
Johnson noted that these units have run little in recent years. “Due to environmental factors, the Company has determined that if the units remain as coal-fired units, the capacity factors would continue to decline and the units would eventually have to be retired,” Johnson noted. “In addition, the Company stated that the air pollution control permit and related requirements for operation of its Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, which began commercial operation on July 10, 2012, require either the conversion of Bremo to natural gas, or the retirement of the units by March 7, 2014.”
The company argues that this coal-to-gas conversion will preserve 227 MW (net) of existing needed capacity at a low cost of $53.4m (excluding financing costs).
The company stated there is an existing natural gas pipeline located south of Bremo across the James River, adjacent to its gas-fired Bear Garden Generating Station. The company’s affiliate, Virginia Power Services Energy (VPSE), has executed construction and supply agreements with Columbia Gas of Virginia (CGV) to install about 1.5 miles of new lateral pipeline to support Bremo Units 3 and 4 post-conversion. CGV will own, operate, and maintain this lateral pipeline. CGV has an interconnect with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line which will provide Bremo access to supply regions from the Gulf of Mexico to the constantly expanding Marcellus shale region, Johnson noted.
Dominion Virginia Power is a unit of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D).