NRG to shut a Will County coal unit; Joliet to be converted to gas

NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) said Aug. 7 that at its newly-acquired Midwest Generation business in Illinois, it will preserve two coal plants, switch another to natural gas in 2016, and shut Will County Unit 3 by April 2015.

  • The Powerton plant (1,538 MW) will continue to operate on Powder River Basin coal, and will get dry sorbent injection (DSI) and electrostatic precipitator (ESP) upgrades.
  • The Waukegan plant (681 MW) will also continue to operate on PRB coal with planned DSI and ESP upgrades.
  • Joliet (1,326 MW) is to be converted to natural gas in 2016.
  • At Will County (761 MW), the plan is to retire Unit 3 in April 2015 (251 MW), and to operate Unit 4 for the foreseeable future, if it can continue to meet all applicable environmental mandates. Testing of Unit 4 for Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) compliance is being done. The initial MATS compliance deadline is April 2015. NRG official Mauricio Gutierrez indicated during the earnings call that Unit 4 looks good for operation through 2018.

NRG said in its Aug. 7 earnings presentation that this plan for this group of assets will mean a 60% reduction in annual CO2 emissions, a 90% reduction in annual SO2 and a 65% reduction in annual NOx. Said an earnings presentation slide about this plan: “Economically Improving Illinois Emissions Levels While Maintaining Critical Fuel Diversity.”

  • Powerton is located in Pekin, Tazewell County, Ill. The operating units at Powerton are referred to as Units 5 and 6 and began operations in 1972 and 1975, respectively.
  • Joliet is located in Joliet, Will County, Ill., about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. The operating units are referred to as Units 6, 7, and 8. The operation of Units 6, 7, and 8 began in 1959, 1965, and 1966, respectively. Joliet Unit 6 is a coal unit located adjacent to, but across the Des Plaines River from, the coal-fired Joliet Units 7 and 8.
  • Waukegan Station is a coal-fired plant located in Waukegan, Lake County, Ill., on Lake Michigan. The operating units at Waukegan are referred to as Units 7 and 8 and began operations in 1958 and 1962, respectively.
  • Will County is a coal-fired plant located in Romeoville, Will County, Ill. The operating units are Units 3 and 4 and began operations between 1955 and 1963.

These plants are among the assets that NRG acquired this past spring through its buy of Edison Mission Energy and Midwest Generation.

In response to the NRG announcement, Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign, said in an Aug. 7 statement: “There is good news and bad news in today’s announcement. NRG is taking important steps to phase out a third of its Illinois coal fleet, but it failed to announce any new investments in clean energy or long-term plan for the future. Phasing out coal will reduce dangerous pollution fleet wide, but that is little solace for the residents who will still be living next to polluting coal plants.”

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.