Wisconsin Electric ups its 2017 PRB coal blend target at Elm Road plant

Wisconsin Electric Power Co., which is seeking approval of its 2017 fuel cost plan, told the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in an Oct. 20 brief that it has upped its projected burn of cheaper Powder River Basin coal at its Elm Road plant, saving it more money next year than expected.

Elm Road’s two units were built a few years ago based on a design coal of high-Btu Pittsburgh-seam coal out of Northern Appalachia. But Wisconsin Electric has recently added facilities to the site to allow it to ship in and blend low-Btu Powder River Basin coal out of the western U.S. Elm Road, also known as the Oak Creek Expansion project, was built late last decade. Units 1 and 2 are supercritical coal-based, baseload facilities. Each unit is 615 MW in size.

During this fuel case, commission staff had proposed increasing the assumed annual average blend of PRB coal at the Elm Road Generating Station (ERGS) to 78%. In rebuttal, Wisconsin Electric explained that its as-filed fuel plan had assumed a PRB blend for the plant of approximately 65% for 2017, which alone would have reduced its monitored fuel costs by more than $5.7 million as compared to the costs authorized for 2016. Wisconsin Electric also explained the significant operational factors that would hinder pushing the ERGS PRB blend to 78% in 2017. However, in acknowledgement of the issues identified by staff, Wisconsin Electric proposed to increase its assumed fuel blend from 65% to 73% PRB, resulting in a decrease of $1.1 million more than the decrease resulting from the staff adjustment—and a total reduction of $8 million as compared to Wisconsin Electric’s 2016 fuel case.

Said the Oct. 20 brief: “Wisconsin Electric believes it can achieve a 73% PRB blend within the operational limitations referenced in Wisconsin Electric’s rebuttal testimony.”

In another matter related to coal supply, Wisconsin Electric said it and commission staff agree that the coal prices assumed in the PROMOD computer model should be those contained in the December 2015 release of the ABB Simulation Ready Data for the North American Electric Market, with a decrease of 5% for PRB coal and 10% for bituminous coal.

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.