Georgia Power wraps up some air controls, readies coal unit shutdowns

Georgia Power told the Georgia Public Service Commission in a March 2 quarterly update that it is making progress on installation of new air emissions controls on much of its coal-fired capacity.

The commission, in approving this Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) subsidiary’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), had ordered these updates regarding the environmental controls and fuel switches that will be implemented under a Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) compliance strategy at Plant Bowen Units 1-4, Plant Gaston Units 1-4, Plant Hammond Units 1-4, Plant McIntosh Unit 1, Plant Scherer Units 1-3, Plant Wansley Units 1 and 2, and Plant Yates Units 6 and 7.

The MATS environmental compliance strategy, as approved by the commission, involves various projects and/or activities to prepare each facility to meet the MATS requirements. The major components of the compliance strategy are:

  • Baghouses – Bowen Units 3-4;
  • Activated carbon injection (ACI) and Alkali Sorbent Injection (ALK) – Bowen Units 1-4, Hammond Units 1-4, Wansley Units 1-2;
  • ACI and dry sorbent injection (DSI) – McIntosh Unit 1;
  • Bromide systems – Scherer Units 1-3; and
  • Fuel switch from coal to natural gas – Gaston Units 1-4 (co-owned plant located in Alabama), Yates Units 6-7.  

Additionally, the compliance strategy involves installation of the support facilities, landfill work, and equipment necessary to operate the control systems or comply with MATS. These systems include natural gas piping and other systems, emissions monitoring equipment, control systems, and auxiliary equipment.

The installation/construction progress through the end of 2014 for each plant/unit is:

  • Plant Bowen Units 1 and 2 – Refurbishment activities for the Unit 1 C and D precipitators will begin in January. Installation of the Unit 1 ACI and ALK electrical/mechanical systems continues. The Unit 2 ALK and ACI systems have been placed in service.
  • Plant Bowen Units 3 and 4 – Pre-assembly of major baghouse components into larger modules continues. Concrete foundations are being installed. Except for punch list activities, work on the relocated administration building is complete. Duct support steel for the Units 3 and 4 baghouses is being installed. Support steel for the Units 3 and 4 baghouses is complete. Duct sections for the Units 3 and 4 baghouses are being installed. Hoppers and compartments for the baghouses have been placed on the support steel. Installation of baghouse dampers and other components is underway.
  • Plant Gaston Units 1-4 – Detailed design is nearing completion for the installation of natural gas burners and other supporting equipment on Units 1-4. Installation of piping and electrical is underway on Unit 4. Onsite gas conditioning station work is complete.  
  • Plant Hammond Units 1-4 – The Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 ACI and ALK systems have been placed in service. Work on the Unit 4 precipitator refurbishment is complete. Work continues on the lining of the existing landfill cell.
  • Plant McIntosh Unit 1 – Work on the ACI and DSI electrical and mechanical equipment building is complete. The prime contractor for installation of the ACI and DSI systems has mobilized and work is underway. The DSI silo has been placed on its foundation.
  • Plant Scherer Units 1-3 – Engineering studies continue for bromide injection.
  • Plant Wansley Units 1 and 2 – The Units 1 and 2 ACI and ALK systems are in service. Pre-outage work for the Unit 1 precipitator refurbishment is underway.
  • Plant Yates Units 6 and 7 – Work on the gas conditioning yard is complete. The installation of natural gas burners, piping, and other supporting equipment continues.

Coal retirements upcoming at plants like Branch and Yates

Said Southern Co. in its March 2 annual Form 10-K report about Georgia Power air compliance planning: “In July 2013, the Georgia PSC approved the Company’s latest triennial Integrated Resource Plan (2013 IRP) including the Company’s request to decertify 16 coal- and oil-fired units totaling 2,093 MWs. Several factors, including the cost to comply with existing and future environmental regulations, recent and forecasted economic conditions, and lower natural gas prices, contributed to the decision to close these units.

“Plant Branch Units 3 and 4 (1,016 MWs), Plant Yates Units 1 through 5 (579 MWs), and Plant McManus Units 1 and 2 (122 MWs) will be decertified and retired by April 16, 2015, the compliance date of the MATS rule. The decertification date of Plant Branch Unit 1 (250 MWs) was extended from December 31, 2013 as specified in the final order in the 2011 Integrated Resource Plan Update (2011 IRP Update) to coincide with the decertification date of Plant Branch Units 3 and 4. The decertification and retirement of Plant Kraft Units 1 through 4 (316 MWs) were also approved and will be effective by April 16, 2016, based on a one-year extension of the MATS rule compliance date that was approved by the State of Georgia Environmental Protection Division in September 2013 to allow for necessary transmission system reliability improvements. In July 2013, the Georgia PSC approved the switch to natural gas as the primary fuel for Plant Yates Units 6 and 7. In September 2013, Plant Branch Unit 2 (319 MWs) was retired as approved by the Georgia PSC in the 2011 IRP Update in order to comply with the State of Georgia’s Multi-Pollutant Rule.

“In the 2013 [Alternative Rate Plan], the Georgia PSC approved the amortization of the [construction work in progress] balances related to environmental projects that will not be completed at Plant Branch Units 1 through 4 and Plant Yates Units 6 and 7 over nine years beginning in January 2014 and the amortization of any remaining net book values of Plant Branch Unit 2 from October 2013 to December 2022, Plant Branch Unit 1 from May 2015 to December 2020, Plant Branch Unit 3 from May 2015 to December 2023, and Plant Branch Unit 4 from May 2015 to December 2024. The Georgia PSC deferred a decision regarding the appropriate recovery period for the costs associated with unusable materials and supplies remaining at the retiring plants to the Company’s next base rate case, which the Company expects to file in 2016 (2016 Rate Case). In the 2013 IRP, the Georgia PSC also deferred decisions regarding the recovery of any fuel related costs that could be incurred in connection with the retirement units to be addressed in future fuel cases.

“On July 1, 2014, the Georgia PSC approved the Company’s request to cancel the proposed biomass fuel conversion of Plant Mitchell Unit 3 (155 MWs) because it would not be cost effective for customers. The Company expects to request decertification of Plant Mitchell Unit 3 in connection with the triennial Integrated Resource Plan to be filed in 2016. The Company plans to continue to operate the unit as needed until the MATS rule becomes effective in April 2015.”

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.