Sunbury to shut five coal-fired generators in Pennsylvania by 2015

More casualties of the Obama EPA’s new mercury rules.

Platts reports,

Sunbury to shut five coal-fired generators in Pennsylvania by 2015
Washington (Platts)–29Dec2011/119 am EST/619 GMT

Sunbury Generation is planning to close five of its six coal-fired generators in Pennsylvania by 2015, a move driven by tougher US Environmental Protection Agency standards and the low cost of natural gas, it said Wednesday.

The Sunbury plant at Shamokin Dam, in operation since 1949, is one of the oldest coal-fired power plants in the US and can produce about 430 MW.

Ed Griegel, vice president of operations for the power plant, said two natural gas turbines will replace the five retired coal-fired generators.

“I don’t think there’s any surprise,” Griegel said, referring to the rule released last week by the EPA requiring a reduction in mercury and air toxics from coal-fired generating units. “We’ve been looking at this for quite a while. We knew these rules were coming, plus the cost of burning coal remains high.”

At the height of its use, Sunbury burned approximately 1.4 million short tons of coal annually. But plant control operator Michael Kawa said Sunbury is “more or less” a seasonal plant now due to environmental regulations and burns closer to 1 million st/year.

Sunbury receives its coal by truck and from Norfolk Southern, which saw a 4% decrease in utility carloads in Q3 as US railroads also deal with the fallout of more stringent regulations.

NS chief marketing officer Donald Seale said during the railroad’s Q3 earnings call that he believed the railroad had already withstood the impact from power plants switching to natural gas.

A spokeswoman for NS said the railroad is still evaluating the impact of the EPA’s latest rule and will comment during its Q4 earnings call January 24.

Sunbury’s decision reflects a nationwide trend. Alliant Energy, for example, will retire at least three units in Iowa and another in Minnesota, according to spokesman Scott Drzycimski.

4 thoughts on “Sunbury to shut five coal-fired generators in Pennsylvania by 2015”

  1. At least this one already has a gas fired replacement. I understand a number of them still cannot get permits. I’m going to laugh my butt off when the lights go out in Manhatten on a grid fail. How will they keep their cocktails cold then?

    In a way though THIS one makes sense. They’re right next door to the Marcellus shale deposits. Gas prices are dropping and King Putt is making coal very expensive.

  2. All the environmentalists are going to complain when the brownouts fry their electronics. These are worse for everything that keeps our country running than blackouts. At least the Chinese hackers will also have problems accessing our programs.

  3. I do not have so much of a problem decommissioning 1940s and ’50s units IF it were allowable to construct new more efficient supercritical or ultra-supercritical steam cycle coal units. If nothing else this will give NG competition, we would not sell all our coal to China, there would be ~30% less CO2 (a bone to throw to the enviros). Most of all, upgrading our coal fleets could result in using nearly 30% less coal for the same MWe output. At least this would give me a “feel-good” that we are doing something to leave some energy for my grandchildren’s children.

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