PPL permits gas firing at big Brunner Island coal plant

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said in a notice in the Sept. 27 Pennsylvania Bulletin that it plans to issue an air permit change allowing gas firing at PPL Corp.’s (NYSE: PPL) Brunner Island coal-fired plant.

The permit approval, to be issued to PPL Brunner Island LLC, allows “for the addition of natural gas as a fuel firing option for the three existing utility boilers (Source IDs 031A, 032 and 033A) and their associated coal mill heaters that will involve the tying in of a natural gas pipeline (Source ID 301), as well as the construction of two natural gas-fired pipeline heaters (Source ID 050) at the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in East Manchester Township, York County,” said the brief notice. “The maximum expected increases in facility emissions as a result of the changes proposed are: 39.90 TPY VOC, 22.57 TPY CO, and 0.01 TPY lead.”

The 1,437-MW Brunner Island plant is one of the facilities that PPL plans to contribute to a new company, Talen EnergyPPL and Riverstone Holdings LLC announced in June a definitive agreement to combine their merchant power generation businesses into Talen Energy, a new stand-alone, publicly listed company.

PPL spokesman George Lewis said in a Sept. 29 e-mail to Generation Hub that PPL is still very early in the process of exploring gas co-firing as an option for the Brunner Island plant. “It’s important to note that a decision has not been made on whether to go ahead with the project,” he added. “Pursuing a modification to the plant’s air permit is one of the steps PPL is taking to keep the gas co-firing option open.” PPL would have the ability to vary from 100% coal to 100% gas firing, or any ratio between, based on fuel economics, he added.

The prospect of a power plant this big, and this well-equipped already with relatively new air emissions controls (like SO2 scrubbers completed in 2009 on all three units), to fire 100% natural gas is a scary one for the coal industry. It comes at a time when a number of coal-fired power plants, including the Hatfields Ferry plant in Pennsylvania of FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE), are being shut due to new clean-air mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The PPL website says that Brunner Island, located in York County, Pa., burns over 3 million tons of coal per year.

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.