Parties debate ramp-up schedule for PRB coal burn at Elm Road

Wisconsin Electric Power (WEPCO) d/b/a We Energies on Oct. 28 filed comments with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin under a biennial review case, with part of the comments related to a change in coal supply for the Elm Road Generating Station.

The comments are on a “matrix” document compiled by PSC staff that lays out the issues in the case.

In January 2014, WEPCO fully converted Elm Road Unit 2 to a 40% Powder River Basin coal blend and also started burning a 20% PRB blend at Unit 1. For 2015, WEPCO assumed a 40% PRB blend at Unit 2 and 0% at Unit 1 for a decrease in monitored fuel costs of $5m.

During commission staff’s audit, WEPCO agreed that testing results to date could support an increase from 0% to a 20% PRB blend at Unit 1 during 2015. In May 2014, WEPCO increased the blend at Unit 2 to 60% PRB. Over the summer, WEPCO continued to test both 40% PRB and 60% PRB coal blends. The majority of the testing done at 40% and 60% PRB blends has been done at reduced loads due to operational issues including low coal inventory. For a very short duration (less than 4 days), and at reduced loads, WEPCO conducted test burns at an 80% PRB coal blend and 100% PRB in Unit 2.

The unnamed other coals in the blend would be high-Btu, Pittsburgh-seam coals out of Northern Appalachia that the relatively new Elm Road units were designed to burn.

In WEPCO’s comments on the matrix, it said that its proposal of a PRB blend of 20% on Unit 1 and 40% on Unit 2 should be approved. “There has not been enough test data gathered to determine the feasibility of sustaining a 40% blend on Unit 1,” the utility added. “Short term and long term effects must be monitored before a PRB blend is sustainable.”

Commission staff believes that WEPCO has been conservative in its forecasting of the timing of the progress to burn PRB coal at Elm Road and also believes that after its success in burning a 40% PRB blend at Unit 2 during 2014, WEPCO will increase the blending at Unit 1 from 20% to 40% PRB coal in 2015.

The two Elm Road units have a combined net capacity of approximately 1,268 MW.

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.