We Energies grants final acceptance for new-ish Elm Road coal units

The two Elm Road coal units, located next to the older Oak Creek coal plant, were running relatively well in the second quarter of 2013, said We Energies (also known as Wisconsin Electric Power) in a July 31 report to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

In November 2003, the PSC approved the construction of two supercritical pulverized coal units, each sized at 615 MW. Turnover, and achievement of commercial operation, of Unit 1 (including common systems) and Unit 2 was completed in February 2010 and January 2011, respectively. Much of the time since then, the units have been in economic reserve or down to fix equipment problems, meaning they have not run.

Since turnover, Bechtel Power, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor has been working to achieve Final Acceptance.

“As stated in previous quarterly reports, Bechtel had been advised that achieving Final Acceptance was also dependent upon resolution of certain major warranty items,” We Energies said.
”On June 21st, 2013 Wisconsin Electric Power Company (‘We Energies’) reached an agreement with Bechtel, which settled the majority of the outstanding warranty claims. Similarly, Elm Road Services, LLC (‘ERS’) reached an agreement with Bechtel settling all punchlist items. Therefore, having met the requirements for Final Acceptance, Elm Road Services, LLC (‘ERS’), on June 26th 2013, issued Final Acceptance certificates to Bechtel for the Facility.”

The utility noted that this will be the last quarterly report filed with the commission, since the units are now considered fully operational.

Unit 1 was in economic reserve until May 12, when a planned outage began to address wet electrostatic precipitator plate alignment issues, make inspections and any needed repairs prior to the summer peak season. This planned outage ended on June 1, and the unit was again placed on economic reserve. The unit returned to service on June 10 and operated the remainder of the quarter, except for a short derating to address a primary air fan bearing vibration issue lasting about 25 hours. Unit 1 had negative capacity factors in April and May, then scored a 43.7% factor in June.

Unit 2 was placed into economic reserve on March 9 and remained in this status until April 28 when the unit returned to service in preparation for fuel flexibility testing. On May 16, the unit began burning a blend of sub-bituminous Powder River Basin (PRB) coal. On June 15 the unit began a one week maintenance outage to inspect the unit for any issues after its initial run with the blended fuel. The inspection outage was extended eight days (until July 1) to repair a boiler tube leak. Unit 2 had capacity factors of 3.5% in April, 74.8% in May and 33.4% in June.

We Energies has been looking at using cheaper PRB coal to replace at least some of the high-Btu Eastern coal, mainly from the Pittsburgh seam in Northern Appalachia, that the Elm Road units were designed to burn. Much of that Pittsburgh seam coal is supplied by CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX). The neighboring Oak Creek plant has burned PRB coal for a long time.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows deliveries to Elm Road earlier this year of coal from CONSOL’s Bailey and Blacksville #2 operations, and also coal from Arch Coal‘s (NYSE: ACI) Black Thunder mine in the PRB sold through Peabody Coal Sales.

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.