Will Co-Firing Natural Gas and Coal Meet Clean Power Plan Standards?

coal plantWhen it comes to complying with the Clean Power Plan, FirstEnergy Corp. has some interesting thoughts: co-firing natural gas with coal.

“Co-firing has several benefits,” says Todd Meyers, FirstEnergy spokesperson. “It provides fuel diversity and ensures our Mon Power coal units can continue to produce low-cost electricity while supporting both the abundant low-cost natural gas supply prevalent in the region and proven coal reserves.  Co-firing with natural gas could also reduce emissions by reducing the amount of coal burned, which could help our fleet comply with future federal and/or state environmental regulations.”

Mon Power refers to the Cleveland-based utility’s operations in northern West Virginia.

Meyers goes on to say that FirstEnergy has no plans at all to build any generation plants, gas-fired or otherwise, in any of its jurisdictions, including West Virginia.

“We have, however, recommended exploring the retrofit of some or all of Mon Power’s existing coal-fired units at the Fort Martin and Harrison power stations to co-fire with up to 30 percent natural gas,” he adds.

(That recommendation was made in the Integrated Resource Plan filed by FirstEnergy utilities Mon Power and Potomac Edison with the West Virginia Public Service Commission in December 2015 to identify the resources necessary to meet the companies’ future energy and capacity obligations in a cost effective, prudent, and reliable manner.  To read the full plan and see the full discussion on natural gas co-firing, etc., check out the plan available at the PSC Web site, Case Number 15-2002-E-IRP.)

“Co-firing has several benefits.  It provides fuel diversity and ensures our Mon Power coal units can continue to produce low-cost electricity while supporting both the abundant low-cost natural gas supply prevalent in the region and proven coal reserves,” he continues. “Co-firing with natural gas could also reduce emissions by reducing the amount of coal burned, which could help our fleet comply with future federal and/or state environmental regulations.”

He said that the company may ask the West Virginia Public Service Commission for its approval to co-fire natural gas with coal at some future point.

It remains unclear just how expensive such a retrofit would be, as opposed to building a gas-fired plant from scratch. It is also unclear whether this strategy would meet the standards of the Clean Power Plan, which if it passes legal muster, would require a 32 percent in carbon emissions by 2030, from a 2005 baseline.

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