Oklahoma Gas and Electric again seeks approval for scrubbers on Sooner coal units

Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) on Feb. 12 petitioned the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for expedited approval of the $500 million installation of dry scrubbers on the two units of the Sooner coal plant, with those controls needed to comply with a January 2019 deadline under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule.

The commission in December 2015 rejected the company’s Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP), which included this project. The company said in the Feb. 12 application that it is now seeking approval of that plan only as it relates to the Sooner scrubber project. Other projects needed for air compliance – low-NOx burners installed at seven units, activated carbon injection installed on five coal units for mercury control, and the coal-to-gas conversions of Muskogee Units 4 and 5 – will be addressed in later, separate proceedings.

The company had already executed scrubber installation contracts, but has suspended work under those contracts until May 2 of this year while it awaits a commission action. The next phase of the project includes site mobilization, which will mean a major increase in money spent so far under the contracts. The utility said it needs to resume construction by May 2 to meet the January 2019 deadline under the regional haze rule.

OG&E said if it can’t get the Sooner scrubbers approved in a timely way, it would have to look at converting these two units to natural gas, further sacrificing fuel diversity on its system.

Utility official Donald Rowlett said in companion Feb. 12 testimony that OG&E will come back later, after the scrubbers are completed, for a decision from the commission on whether the actual Sooner scrubber costs are reasonable. He said the company in 2014 entered into a contract with Andritz for the scrubber equipment, and in early 2015 signed an EPC contract with Oklahoma Power Constructors (a joint venture of Black & Veatch and PCL Industrial Construction). The scrubber equipment supply contract was later merged into the EPC deal.

Johnson Bridgwater, Director of the Sierra Club’s Oklahoma chapter, said Feb. 12 in response to this new petition: “The commissioners acted in the best interest of Oklahoma when they rejected OG&E’s so-called ‘environmental compliance plan.’ It is expensive and unnecessary. Everyone, from the AARP and the Sierra Club to consumer and faith groups, stood with Oklahomans and opposed the plan. Today’s request feels like an appalling case of déjà vu, as OG&E comes to the table with the exact same request made over a year ago. The commission and stakeholders spent an unprecedented amount of time and money thoroughly reviewing OG&E’s request, and the commission reached the thoughtful and well-reasoned decision that OG&E’s plan had failed to consider reasonable alternatives, like low-cost, homegrown wind.”

The Dec. 2 final commission order in this case said the commission declined to grant OG&E’s ECP for several reasons. First, the commission has not been provided with sufficient certainty or specificity as to the costs of the plan, leaving it unable to determine whether the costs to be recoverable are reasonable. Second, OG&E’s proposal does not limit its recovery to 24 months or include a commitment to file a statutory request for a comprehensive review of all of its rates within 24 months of any temporary recovery. And third, OG&E’s proposal includes recovery through temporary rates of costs in addition to those incurred for capital expenditures for equipment and facilities.

OG&E’s coal-fired units are:

Muskogee Unit 4, on-line since 1977, 492 MW;

Muskogee Unit 5, on-line since 1978, 506 MW;

Muskogee Unit 6, on-line since 1984, 500 MW;

Sooner Unit 1, on-line since 1979, 520 MW; and

Sooner Unit 2, on-line since 1980, 522 MW.

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.