Virginia commission okays Clinch River coal-to-gas conversion

The Virginia State Corporation Commission on Dec. 20 approved an application by Appalachian Power for the coal-to-gas conversion of Units 1 and 2 at the Clinch River power plant.

On May 29, Appalachian Power (APCo) filed with commission an application for certificates of public convenience and necessity to convert Units 1 and 2 of the Clinch River plant to use natural gas rather than coal as fuel.

The Clinch River plant is a coal-fired facility located in Russell County, Va., consisting of three units that have a total nominal net generating capacity of 705 MW. This American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) subsidiary proposes to convert Units 1 and 2 to natural gas and to retire Unit 3. Units 1 and 2 would each have a nominal generating capacity of 242 MW after the conversion.

“The Commission finds the public convenience and necessity requires the proposed conversion of Clinch River Units 1 and 2 from coal to gas and continued operation of the units,” said the Dec. 20 order.

The conversion of Clinch River Units 1 and 2 must be completed and the units in service by July 1, 2016, though the company was granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.

Clinch River is a three-unit facility, with each unit having a nominal capacity of 242 MW. Units 1 and 2 (which will be converted to gas) began operating in 1958 and Unit 3 (to be shut) in 1961. The plant is located near Cleveland, Va. The aging units have lately been used as “cycling” type units and their frequency of usage has declined.

Clinch River Units 1 and 2 had an average net capacity factor of about 25% during the 2011-2012 peak electricity demand periods and as gas-fired units are expected to operate at an average net capacity factor of about 28% during summer peak demand periods. The converted units will allow the plant to provide reliability benefits and potentially offset higher-priced market purchases during peak time periods.

The units will also be able to offer certain generation-related ancillary services to transmission providers including synchronized reserves, day-ahead reserves and voltage support.

It will be necessary for a gas transporter to construct about six miles of natural gas pipeline lateral from East Tennessee Natural Gas LLC’s Nora lateral line onto the Clinch River property. APCo said AEP used Babcock & Wilcox and Worley Parsons in its initial design efforts for this project.

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.