Duke Energy Florida kicks off Crystal River coal tests

Duke Energy Florida conducted successful coal burn tests in June at Crystal River Units 1 and 2 as it looks for the best way to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) as of 2015.

Utility official Jeffrey Swartz provided a brief update on that test burn program in Aug. 30 testimony filed at the Florida Public Service Commission as part of an annual environmental cost review case.

“DEF performed initial fuel tests in June 2013 that demonstrated stable plant operations with alternative lower constituent coal,” wrote Swartz. “Additional analysis and testing is planned to further explore the options available to DEF to reduce emissions into the ranges required for MATS compliance. These costs are subject to change as the Company continues to explore options to reduce emissions into the ranges required for MATS compliance.”

He added: “If DEF moves forward with alternative coal as the MATS compliance strategy, it will need to incur some capital costs to make changes to CR1&2 so that the units can successfully burn the coal. Depending on the engineering results, such costs may be incurred in the 2014 timeframe. However, given that the engineering analysis has not been completed, DEF has not included any capital costs for this project at this time.

Swartz didn’t give details on coals tested. Crystal River Units 1 and 2, which don’t have scrubbers, traditionally burn Central Appalachia coal, while the scrubber-equipped Units 4 and 5 burn higher-sulfur Illinois Basin coals. Duke Energy Florida has previously said the tests at Units 1 and 2 would be of a blend of Powder River Basin and western bituminous coals.

A report that the utility filed with the PSC for June fuel deliveries shows the usual mix of Central Appalachia and Illinois Basin coals, with the exception being coal from Arch Coal’s West Elk longwall mine in Colorado, which meets the description of western bituminous coal. A fuel delivery report for May also shows deliveries from West Elk. No deliveries are shown over the last few months of PRB coal.

Duke Energy Florida, in the meantime, is projecting an uptick in coal burn next year at its Crystal River power plant. In a report filed Aug. 30 at the Florida PSC that updates 2013 actual fuel costs so far, and provides initial 2014 burn projections, this Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) subsidiary said it is likely to burn 5.3 million tons of coal in 2014, against 5.1 million tons projected for 2013. The coal burn in 2012 was only 4.5 million tons, and 4.7 million tons in 2011.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on July 8 issued a final air permit approval for a Duke Energy Florida test burn program, to be completed by the end of this year, at Crystal River Units 1 and 2.

Said the DEP approval: “The test burn program will involve the temporary installation, testing, and operation of new coal blends, equipment, and process. The coal blending of Powder River Basin (PRB) with Western Bituminous (WB) will be done offsite to reduce fugitive emissions impacts. As part of the test burn program, Units 1 and 2 will have additional temporary post combustion controls such as hydrated lime injection and activated carbon injection upstream to the electrostatic precipitator. This authorization is only for a test lasting no more than ninety days in duration to determine whether this fuel blend along with post combustion controls reduces overall emissions impact.”

The worst case emission scenario would be firing WB coal only. The test burn program is being initiated in an attempt to reduce overall emissions such as particulate matter, acid gases, and mercury to determine the potential for Units 1 and 2 to comply with the federal MATS rule during the 2015-2020 timeframe.

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.