Last lake vessel delivers coal to doomed Cobb coal units of Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy on Nov. 8 highlighted nearly 70 years of service and looked ahead to continued commercial shipping for the Port of Muskegon as the final Great Lakes coal freighter arrived at the B.C. Cobb power plant.

The 1,000 foot M/V James R. Barker docked at the plant on Nov. 8, following a ceremonial escort across Muskegon Lake and a welcome by Muskegon area residents lining the Muskegon Channel as the Interlake Steamship Co. vessel completed its two-and-a-half day voyage from Superior, Wisc. The freighter delivered more than 59,000 tons of low-sulfur Western U.S. coal, which provides the Cobb Plant enough fuel to continue operations until its scheduled shutdown in mid-April 2016. The Cobb units are among the “Classic Seven” coal units that Consumers plans to shut next April under a one-year extension of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) compliance deadline.

“This is a bittersweet occasion for Consumers Energy and the hundreds of current and retired B.C. Cobb employees who have worked safely to provide power to our customers,” said Timothy Sparks, the company’s vice president of energy supply operations.

Sparks said the Nov. 8 event underscores the importance of a Michigan-first energy policy. A total of 25 Michigan generating facilities are expected to close by 2020 because of environmental regulations.

“To ensure all Michiganders continue having access to reliable electricity, it’s essential that our Legislature adopts a Michigan-first energy policy this year,” Sparks said, adding he’s pleased by recent passage of two bills in the House Energy Committee.

The “Classic Seven” coal units targeted for shutdown in April 2016 are:

  • J.C. Weadock Unit 7 (151 MW nameplate);
  • J.C. Weadock Unit 8 (151 MW nameplate);
  • B.C. Cobb Unit 4 (156 MW nameplate);
  • B.C. Cobb Unit 5 (156 MW nameplate);
  • J.R. Whiting Unit 1 (101.2 MW nameplate);
  • J.R. Whiting Unit 2 (101.5 MW nameplate); and
  • J.R. Whiting Unit 3 (124 MW nameplate).

The utility said in a Power Supply Cost Recovery plan filed Sept. 30 with the Michigan Public Service Commission that the coal burn projections for the coal plants/units that won’t be shut in 2016 (Campbell 1-3 and Karn 1-2) are:

  • 2017 – 6.7 million tons;
  • 2018 – 6.5 million tons;
  • 2019 – 6.4 million tons; and
  • 2020 – 6.7 million tons.

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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.