Wisconsin PSC begins review of coal pile expansion at Oak Creek/Elm Road

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin issued a Nov. 21 notice that it will take intervention requests for the next 14 days in a proceeding opened Oct. 24 related to expanded coal stockpile capabilities at the adjacent Oak Creek and Elm Road power plants.

Wisconsin Electric Power, Madison Gas and Electric and WPPI Energy are seeking authority to construct a site bulk material handling project at the Oak Creek Power Plant and the Elm Road Generating Station. The applicants intend to expand the outdoor coal storage facilities and install a new stacker and reclaimer with attendant equipment at the site to support fuel supply needs at a total estimated cost of $62.1m.

The Oak Creek site is comprised of two power plants: Oak Creek and the relatively new Elm Road. The plants are served by common fuel handling facilities known as Site Bulk Material Handling (SBMH). The two Elm Road units, having a combined net capacity of approximately 1,268 MW, are operated by WEPCO and are majority-owned by Elm Road Generating Station Supercritical LLC. MGE and WPPI each own 8.33%. The four Oak Creek units, having a combined net capacity of 1,135 MW, are fully owned and operated by WEPCO.

The coal storage capacity of the Oak Creek generating site of approximately 750,000 tons is far below that of peers such as the Labadie Plant, which can store over 2 million tons, the application noted. For the Oak Creek generating site, a 90-day capacity is a prudent target given expected circumstances described in this application. This calls for total on-site storage capacity of approximately 1.5 million tons of coal, as compared to current capacity of 750,000 tons. The resulting metric of 625 tons/MW is well within accepted utility good operating practice, the utilities noted.

Expansion of coal storage and fuel handling capacity at the site is required to:

  • Support increased market demand for energy from Oak Creek and Elm Road;
  • Address consistent challenges with the pace and reliability of rail deliveries of coal;
  • Improve on-site storage capacity and the ability to offload trains in a timely fashion; and
  • Mitigate adverse net fuel cost impacts.

Expansion of coal storage and fuel handling capacity at the site will additionally support a new fuel blending project at Elm Road by providing sufficient coal storage and fuel handling capacity to sustain operations at higher blends of sub-bituminous coal. Sub-bituminous coal has a lower heat content than bituminous coal, so a coal storage facility would need to harbor more tons to achieve the same burn-day target as a stockpile with only bituminous coal. Oak Creek has been using sub-bituminous coal for years, while this coal is being added at Elm Road to supplant at least some of the more costly Pittsburgh-seam bituminous coal that the plant was designed to burn.

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.