One coal unit at Drake plant in Colorado restored to service

Colorado Springs Utilities said in a June 25 Facebook posting that just 50 days after a fire closed the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, the Colorado municipal has one turbine (Unit 6) back up and running on coal.

“A tremendous feat thanks to countless hours and individuals dedicated to getting it back up and running,” said the brief posting. “As a result, we plan to file a reduction to the Electric Cost Adjustment (ECA) at the July 8 City Council meeting with an effective date of July 11. All of this is pending City Auditor review and City Council approval. Further reductions will follow when unit 7 comes back online this fall.”

On May 5, a structure fire occurred at the Martin Drake plant. Drake replacement power costs are estimated at $3m per month. To recover these additional costs, City Council approved an ECA rate increase at their May 27 meeting. The fire was centered mostly around Unit 5, which is getting the highest level of repair work. Once both Units 6 and 7 are working, 80% of Drake’s energy production will be back online. CSU is working to get as much of the plant back online as possible to meet summer peak air conditioning demand.

There are three Drake units – Unit 5, Unit 6, and Unit 7 – which have lately been operational, with other units having been retired long ago. All three are capable of producing full load output on either natural gas or coal and utilize fully enclosed boilers and steam turbines with heat rejection via wet, evaporative cooling towers. Fuel supply to the facility is primarily Powder River Basin coal (PRB) from Wyoming with limited natural gas (primarily for boiler ignition) and biomass co-firing.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows coal suppliers earlier this year were the North Antelope Rochelle mine of Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU), the Black Thunder mine of Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) and the Antelope mine of Cloud Peak Energy (NYSE: CLD), all located in the Wyoming end of the PRB.

  • The Drake Unit 5 boiler is a Riley Stoker Stirling type boiler. The unit has been in service since 1960. The unit is nominally rated at 44 MW and utilizes a Westinghouse steam turbine generator.
  • The Unit 6 boiler is a Babcock & Wilcox Stirling Power design. It is rated at 66 net MW, also utilizes a Westinghouse steam turbine generator, and has been in service since 1968.
  • Unit 7 has a nominal rating of 127 MW. This unit also uses a Babcock & Wilcox boiler and was placed into service in 1974.
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.