Columbia Gas plans pipeline to aid Big Sandy Unit 1 coal-to-gas conversion

Columbia Gas Transmission LLC applied Nov. 21 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval of a gas pipeline that would support Kentucky Power’s plan to convert its coal-fired Big Sandy Unit 1 to natural gas.

Kentucky Power, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), has already gotten Kentucky Public Service Commission approval to convert Big Sandy Unit 1 from coal to gas, and also to shut by June 2015 the 800-MW Big Sandy Unit 2, which is also fired with coal. The conversion and shutdown are triggered in part by compliance needs under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

An open season was conducted between Aug. 15, 2014, and Aug. 22, 2014, to solicit binding offers for capacity on Columbia’s Line P system. At the close of the open season, there were no bids and all capacity was awarded to Kentucky Power.

On July 28, 2014, Columbia and Kentucky Power executed a Precedent Agreement, wherein the parties agreed that Columbia will provide up to 72,000 Dth/d of firm natural gas transportation service to Big Sandy Unit 1 beginning as early as April 1, 2016. Firm transportation service will be provided initially for testing and commissioning purposes of the converted Big Sandy Unit 1. The firm transportation service will commence once the unit has completed testing and commissioning and is ready to commence commercial operations, possibly as soon as June 1, 2016. Kentucky Power will separately make arrangements for the natural gas supply that will be transported to the Big Sandy Plant by Columbia.

The proposed pipeline facilities will be located in Wayne County, West Virginia, and Lawrence County, Kentucky. Columbia proposes to construct approximately 3 miles of new 16-inch pipeline. The new 16-inch line PM214 will commence at a tie-in with Columbia’s existing Line P in Wayne County, West Virginia; continue west where a 2,377 foot horizontal directional drill will cross beneath the Big Sandy River; and end at a new Point of Delivery (POD) in the southwest corner of the existing Big Sandy Plant site near Louisa in Lawrence County, Kentucky.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission on Aug. 1 approved a December 2013 application from Kentucky Power for the Unit 1 conversion. The 800-MW coal-fired Unit 2 at Big Sandy is to be shut for the same reason, eventually leaving no coal-fired capacity left at this plant site in eastern Kentucky.

Due to the age of Unit 1, which was commissioned in 1963, and its relatively small size, Kentucky Power told the commission that the “relative economies of a large environmental investment” option to retrofit Unit 1 with pollution-control equipment “lacked sufficient scale to merit consideration.” Unit 1 would go from a 278-MW unit on coal to a 268-MW generator on natural gas.

The PSC had previously approved Kentucky Power’s acquisition of half of the Mitchell coal plant in West Virginia to make up for the mid-2015 retirement of Big Sandy Unit 2.

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.