NRG to switch lignite-fired Limestone plant in Texas to 100% PRB coal

NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) has decided to cease around the end of this year using locally-produced lignite from the Jewett Mine and to shift the 1,689-MW Limestone plant in Texas to 100% cleaner burning Power River Basin (PRB) coal.

“This is a very difficult decision and one that we don’t take lightly,” said the company in a statement e-mailed to Generation Hub on Aug. 30. “NRG comprehensively evaluates the fuel sources for each plant for a number of criteria. Powder River Basin coal is currently the most competitive option for Limestone. Given low natural gas prices and the very challenging economics in the ERCOT energy and ancillary services market, this change is important to improve Limestone Electric Generating Station’s competitiveness to continue operating and meeting the electrical demand of the local area with the additional benefit of reducing emissions. NRG will oversee Texas Westmoreland’s continued employment of a skilled workforce for reclamation of the mine and continued compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and permits.”

This continues a trend over the last few years, spurred by Texas power generators like Luminant, to switch lignite-fired plants partially or completely to higher-Btu, lower-sulfur PRB coal. This coal moves by rail from the Wyoming end of the PRB. NRG spokesman David Knox couldn’t say if any particular PRB suppliers have been lined up for this new Limestone business. He noted that Limestone has been on about 50% lignite and 50% PRB coal for some time. NRG”s other coal plant in Texas, W.A. Parish, has been on all PRB coal since the beginning.

Texas Westmoreland is a unit of Westmoreland Coal, which says about this operation on its website: “Texas Westmoreland Coal Company – Jewett Mine is a 35,000-acre surface mine complex located between Dallas and Houston. It currently operates four active pits. It supplies lignite (a grade of coal) under a lignite supply contract to the adjacent two-unit Limestone Electric Generating Station owned by NRG Texas. A low-cost, base-load power plant utilizing emission control technologies, Limestone was designed and built specifically to burn lignite from Jewett. Limestone enjoys a solid position in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) regional power market, which is heavily weighted with natural gas-fired power generation and thus more expensive and price-volatile than a market more dependent on coal-fired power. The Jewett Mine has in-place capacity currently up to 6.5 million tons of lignite annually.”

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.