Minnesota Power breaks ground on Boswell 4 air project

Minnesota Power held an Oct. 31 groundbreaking at the coal-fired Boswell power plant to mark the start of construction on an air emissions project at the 585-MW, coal-fired Unit 4 at the plant.

Preliminary work is underway on the project that will reduce emissions of mercury by approximately 90% and also reduce levels of particulates and sulfur, said the utility in an Oct. 31 statement. Minnesota Power is an operating division of ALLETE Inc. (NYSE: ALE).

Boswell Unit 4 is 80% owned by Minnesota Power, with the balance owned by WPPI Energy. Minnesota Power’s portion of the project cost is estimated to be approximately $350m, invested over the next several years. Additional investments by WPPI Energy reflect its 20% ownership of the unit and its share of the project.

“Boswell 4 is the capstone piece of a seven year emission reduction initiative that began with our Laskin and Taconite Harbor Energy Centers in 2006, continued in 2009 with the retrofit of Boswell Unit 3,” said ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Al Hodnik. “Upon completion of the Boswell 4 project Minnesota Power will have invested approximately $700 million in cleaner energy, reducing mercury emissions by 90 percent while lowering sulfur, nitrous oxide and fine particulates by more than 70 percent compared to 2005 levels.”

Construction will take about three years, with project-related on-site employment expected to approach 500 people.

The Unit 4 project will meet the requirements of Minnesota’s Mercury Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 two years ahead of schedule. The retrofit will also meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The project was recently approved by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission, Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency.

The Boswell Unit 4 upgrade will be similar in scale to the retrofit undertaken by Minnesota Power at Boswell Unit 3, which employed more than 400 workers during the recession of 2008 and 2009.

In conjunction with achieving greatly reduced emissions and increased operating efficiencies in its coal-fired fleet, Minnesota Power said it is adding cost-effective renewable energy to its portfolio as part of its EnergyForward resource strategy to achieve a more balanced energy supply.

The company is expanding its Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota, has secured a major purchase of hydropower from Manitoba Hydro and recently filed a Certificate of Need application at the state Public Utilities Commission for its Great Northern Transmission Line to deliver this energy to Minnesota customers beginning in 2020. EnergyForward also includes a robust conservation and energy efficiency “Power of One” program.

Alstom said Aug. 29 that it has won a new contract to deliver an emission control system for Unit 4 at Boswell. Once installed, Alstom’s NID semi-dry flue gas desulfurization system will cut mercury emissions by 90% and significantly curb emissions of SO2 and other pollutants.

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.