Alabama Power permits coal-to-gas conversion of two Greene County units

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is taking comments untl Sept. 25 on a tentative decision to approve an Alabama Power application for air permits which would authorize a coal-to-gas conversion project at the Greene County power plant in Forkland, Alabama.

On March 11, the department received applications from Alabama Power to retrofit Units 1 and 2, which are currently fired primarily with coal, to supplement the existing natural gas firing capability in order for natural gas to become the primary fuel. As a part of this project, APC proposed to install new natural gas burners in the units and other ancillary process and monitoring equipment necessary to safely operate as natural gas-fired utility boilers. Additionally, Alabama Power proposed to install and operate a new natural gas conditioning station with a gas heater.

Natural gas after this conversion would be the only fuel source for these units. After retrofitting Units 1 and 2, the nominal heat input for each unit would be 2,541 mmBtu/hr and 2,545 mmBtu/hr, respectively, while the full load gross generating capacity would remain at approximately 272 MW per unit. The units would continue to use the existing stack configuration.

The compliance date for the U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) was April 16, 2015. In order to complete the work associated with this project and remove MATS applicability for Units 1 and 2, Alabama Power requested an extension of compliance with MATS. The department granted this request in a September 2013 letter.

The units are currently equipped with electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) since they have historically operated as coal-fired facilities. However, particulate matter emissions would be expected to be insignificant from natural gas-fired units. Therefore, the operation of the ESPs would no longer be required.

Alabama Power parent Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) reported in its Aug. 5  Form 10-Q report that this is one of several moves to comply with MATS and other clean-air commitments.

In April 2015, as part of its environmental compliance strategy, Alabama Power retired the coal-fired Plant Gorgas Units 6 and 7. These units represented 200 MW of Alabama Power’s approximately 12,200 MW of capacity. Also in April 2015, Alabama Power ceased using coal at Plant Barry Units 1 and 2 (about 250 MW net in total), but these units will remain available on a limited basis with natural gas as the fuel source.

No later than April 2016, Alabama Power expects to cease using coal at Plant Greene County Units 1 and 2 (about 300 MW nameplate apiece) and begin operating those units solely on natural gas. These are the only coal units at the Greene County plant. Subject to the final approval of a New Source Review stipulation, Alabama Power will also retire Plant Barry Unit 3 (about 225 MW net), which is currently unavailable for generation.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that the coal suppliers to Greene County earlier this year, all out of Alabama coal mine origins, were: Alabama Power itself, out of sources including the Fleetwood Mine #1; and the Alabama Coal Cooperative, with blended coal out of several unnamed mines.

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.