Luminant permits new gas-fired capacity, but not committed to building it

The Luminant subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings has lately been seeking and getting air permits for new gas-fired capacity as part of a program to be ready for new plant development if the markets demand it, said Energy Future in its March 31 annual Form 10-K statement.

Energy Future, Luminant and other affiliates have been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since April 2014. To a certain extent, they are on hold with major projects like these just because of the uncertainty of their financial status.

Examples of that air permitting so far this year alone are:

  • Luminant’s Eagle Mountain Power Co. LLC is nearing approvals from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on air permits for two new combined-cycle units at the Eagle Mountain Steam Electric Station in Tarrant County, Texas. The commission on March 30 posted to its website a March 26 notice of intent to approve these permits. This is the site of retired steam capacity.
  • The TCEQ, in a notice posted to its website on March 17, said it has gotten an application for new power units at the Permian Basin power plant. “Luminant Generation Company LLC has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for issuance of Air Quality Permit Number 130017, which would authorize construction of two natural gas-fired simple cycle combustion turbine generating units at the Permian Basin Steam Electric Station located at 600 North Yucca Drive, Monahans, Ward County, Texas 79756,” said the notice. The Luminant website shows the Permian Basin plant as an 865-MW (operating capacity), gas-fired facility with five combustion turbines, one mothballed steam unit and one retired steam unit.
  • The TCEQ said in a Jan. 13 notice that it has gotten an application from a Luminant affiliate for an air permit on new gas-fired peaking capacity in Fannin County. “Valley NG Power Company LLC has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for issuance of Air Quality Permit Number 128432, which would authorize construction of two natural gas-fired simple cycle combustion turbine generating units at the Valley Steam Electric Station located at 1040 CR 1225, Savoy, Fannin County, Texas 75479,” said the notice, without adding further detail about these capacity additions.
  • The TCEQ said in a Jan. 6 notice that Luminant’s DeCordova II Power Co. LLC has applied for an air permit covering a power plant uprate project. Said the notice, without providing further details on the project: “DeCordova II Power Company LLC, has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for issuance of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Air Quality Permit Number GHGPSDTX124, which would authorize modification to add Combined Cycle optionality for the Simple Cycle Combustion Turbine Units 5 & 6 located at 4950 Power Plant Court, Granbury, Hood County, Texas 76048.”

In the March 31 Form 10-K statement, Energy Future said about new gas capacity permitting: “In 2013 and 2014, the TCEQ granted air permits to Luminant to build two natural gas combustion turbine generation units totaling 420 MW to 460 MW at each of Luminant’s existing DeCordova, Tradinghouse and Lake Creek generation facilities. In 2014 and 2015, Luminant filed air permit applications with the TCEQ to build two natural gas combustion turbine generation units totaling 420 MW to 460 MW at each of its existing Valley and Permian Basin generation facilities. In 2014, Luminant filed air permit applications with the TCEQ to build a combined cycle natural gas generation unit totaling 730 MW to 810 MW at each of its existing Eagle Mountain and DeCordova generation facilities. In 2015, Luminant filed an air permit application with the TCEQ to build two combined cycle natural gas generation units totaling 1460 MW to 1620 MW at its Tradinghouse generation facility. The proposed combined cycle natural gas generation units would be an alternative to the natural gas combustion turbine generation units at DeCordova and Tradinghouse. We believe current market conditions do not provide adequate economic returns for the development or construction of these facilities; however, we believe additional generation resources will be needed in the future to support electricity demand growth and reliability in the ERCOT market.”

Luminant currently owns a fleet of 22 natural gas-fueled generation units, seven of which are steam generation units totaling 2,480 MW of capacity and 15 are combustion turbine units totaling 975 MW of capacity. These amounts do not include four steam generation units representing 1,655 MW of capacity that Luminant plans to retire in June 2015. The natural gas-fueled units predominantly serve as peaking units that can be ramped up or down to balance electricity supply and demand.

Company spokesman Brad Watson said in an April 1 e-mail to GenerationHub about the to-be-retired gas units, that Luminant has notified ERCOT that it will permanently retire four mothballed natural gas steam units at two plant sites.

  • At the Valley plant in Fannin County, Units 1, 2 and 3 will be retired; and
  • At the Permian Basin plant in Ward County, Unit 6 will be retired.

“These units have been mothballed since 2010 and have been determined by ERCOT not to be needed for reliability,” Watson added. “The units’ capacity is not counted in ERCOT’s calculated reserve margin. The designation change will be effective in June. After a review, Luminant decided to retire the units due to their age, maintenance cost while mothballed and the potential cost of preparing them to return to service.”

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.