Dominion CEO updates progress on Va. gas plants; talks CO2 proposal

The Dominion (NYSE:D) 1,300-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant in Warren County, Va., is now 90% complete and should be deployed during the fourth quarter of this year, CEO Thomas Farrell II said July 30.

During the company’s quarterly earnings conference call with financial analysts, Farrell also said a similar combined-cycle plant in Brunswick County, Va., is 20% complete.

The Warren County plant is located in northwestern Virginia, and “startup” activity is underway at the plant. Brunswick is located in the southern part of the state. Brunswick is expected to enter commercial service in mid-2016.

In addition, Dominion reported that the conversion of Units 3 and 4 at the Bremo plant from coal to natural gas has been completed on time and on budget.

Meanwhile, a non-regulated Dominion subsidiary has been busy buying or developing solar energy projects in Tennessee and California. The total portfolio of solar projects in service or in development equals 232 MW, the company said.

Dominion might elect to expand its solar development plans depending on how things go with its early ventures. A few years ago Dominion experimented with onshore wind energy, but decided not to develop a significant land-based wind portfolio.

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan could prompt Dominion to try more solar energy generation, officials said.

Dominion had operating earnings for the three months ended June 30, 2014, amounted to $361m or 62 cents per share, compared to operating earnings of $355m or 62 cents per share for the same period in 2013. Operating earnings are defined as reported (GAAP) earnings adjusted for certain items.

Mild weather and an unplanned outage at the Millstone nuclear station in Connecticut hurt Dominion earnings during the second quarter. Electricity sales were softer than expected due to the mild weather.

Dominion officials said they were disappointed in electricity sales and think a slower-than-anticipated housing market recovery might be a primary reason.

At Millstone, loss of offsite power caused both Millstone units to be offline for several days. The problem was connected with a substation.

Farrell sees greater need for natural gas, pipelines under CO2 proposal

“There’s no question the greenhouse gas rule is going to move people use more gas,” Farrell said in response to a question.

EPA proposed its CO2 proposal for existing plants June 2. The agency wants states to attain a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from the power sector by 2030.

This is bound to create demand for natural gas, Farrell said.

This will also create demand for “more pipe” to move natural gas to end users from places such as the Utica shale basin, which has seen a dramatic increase in wells since 2012. Dominion has been increasing its footprint in natural gas-related business in recent years.

Farrell briefed analysts on progress on several proposed natural gas transmission lines as well as the Allegheny gas storage project. Dominion Transmission plans to build a compressor station in Maryland to move additional supplies of gas to customers in that state.

A Dominion website said the storage project should provide gas storage and transportation services in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Dominion is also launching a midstream master limited partnership (MLP) arrangement for its Cove Point liquefaction site in Maryland after receiving approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility.

The Maryland Public Service Commission approved a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) and air permit in May for the Cove Point LNG facility. Dominion expects to have Cove Point begin operations by the end of 2017.

“We expect to receive a FERC order approving the project in the next few weeks,” Farrell said.

The company had charges associated with North Anna and offshore wind legislation. The Virginia legislation affected potential rate recovery for commercial offshore wind or a third unit at North Anna nuclear plant.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.