AEP’s Kentucky Power completes Big Sandy conversion to natural gas

The Big Sandy Power Plant is once again generating electricity for Kentucky Power customers with its completed conversion to a natural gas-fired facility, the American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) subsidiary said June 27.

Unit 1 opened at the Big Sandy plant in Kentucky during 1963 and operated until Nov. 13, 2015. The conversion to burn natural gas as a fuel started soon after, AEP said in a news release.

Major construction was completed by mid-May this year. On May 30,  the converted unit went online to begin supplying up to 268 MW of gas-generated electricity to the PJM Interconnection (PJM).

“The conversion of Big Sandy Unit 1 from coal to natural gas is a significant accomplishment,” said Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley.

“Our employees have done a fantastic job over the years and will continue to provide eastern Kentucky with safe, reliable and affordable electricity, generated now from natural gas at Big Sandy, as well as from coal at our Mitchell plant in West Virginia,” Pauley said.

While the conversion marks the beginning of a new chapter for Big Sandy, it won’t be the last. Kentucky Power’s long-term plans include removing Unit 2 and redeveloping a portion of the site into an industrial park, Pauley said.

“The flat land at Big Sandy is located between a four-lane highway and the Big Sandy River,” Pauley said. “It has not only highway and river access, but also rail. It has the potential to be an ideal industrial park site and we look forward to pursuing that possibility for the region.”

Worley Parsons was the engineering firm on the gas conversion project,” said a Kentucky Power spokesperson. “As for costs, we are filing an update with that information to the Kentucky Public Service Commission on Thursday,” the spokesperson said.

Kentucky Power also has a permit application pending to retire the coal ash pond at Big Sandy located near Louisa in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Kentucky Power filed an application with the state of Kentucky in late 2014 seeking to convert the generating unit from burning coal to natural gas.

Kentucky Power, a unit of American Electric Power, serves about 169,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties and owns 50% of the Mitchell Power Plant in Moundsville, W.Va.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at