NRG to shut out coal completely at Chalk Point, Dickerson plants

Coal units at these plants to be deactivated by mid 2017

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About 1,349 MW of coal-fired capacity, mostly in Maryland, is newly-expected to be deactivated in the next few years in the PJM Interconnection region.

In an updated Dec. 5 version of its pending deactivation list, PJM showed five coal units and one gas-fired unit in Maryland getting Dec. 2 requests for deactivation. The parties making the requests aren’t named, but they are, based on the plants involved, NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) and Exelon (NYSE: EXC).

In all cases, these requests are still subject to grid reliability analyses to see if these units can be shut without harming the transmission system.

The Dec. 2 requests are:

  • There was a request for deactivation as of May 31, 2017, of Units 1-3 at the Dickerson plant in Maryland of NRG. For these three units, PJM gave the capacities as 182 MW apiece. The GenerationHub database shows that these are the only coal-fired units at this plant, with also located at the site three oil- and gas-fired turbines.
  • NRG also requested deactivation as of May 31, 2017, of Chalk Point Unit 1 (337 MW) and Unit 2 (341 MW) in Maryland. Again, the GenerationHub database shows these as the only coal units at that plant, with the rest of the plant being made up of nine oil-fired turbines. Note that some units at both Chalk Point and Dickerson are dual-fueled and can fire both oil and gas.
  • Exelon requested the June 1, 2016, deactivation of Riverside Unit 4 (76 MW) in Maryland. The GenerationHub database shows this is a gas-fired steam turbine unit, with three other turbine units at the plant fired by gas and oil. "Riverside Generating Station is owned and operated by Exelon Power," said the Exelon website, noting that the plant came to the company in a 2012 takeover of Constellation Energy. "Riverside is a four unit, 228 megawatt (MW) fossil power plant located on Sollers Point on the Patapsco River in Dundalk, Maryland."

Also, on Nov. 14, the AES Beaver Valley subsidiary of AES Corp. (NYSE: AES) requested approval of the June 1, 2016, deactivation of its 125-MW coal-fired power plant in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. That, plus the NRG deactivations at Chalk Point and Dickerson, brings the newest wave of coal-fired deactivations in PJM to a total of 1,349 MW.

In January 2013, AES Beaver Valley entered into an agreement to early terminate its power purchase agreement (PPA) with an offtaker in exchange for a lump sum payment of $60m, said AES Corp. in its May 9 quarterly Form 10-Q reportThe PPA termination was effective Jan. 8. Beaver Valley also terminated its fuel supply agreement with an unnamed supplier, said AES.

The Chalk Point and Dickerson deactivations show that even coal plants with installed SO2 scrubbers are increasingly not safe from shutdown for reasons largely related to clean-air compliance. Both plants got expensive new scrubbers operating, while under former owner Mirant Corp., in 2009 as a response to restrictions under the Maryland Healthy Air Act.

Dave Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, told GenerationHub on Dec. 6 that the issue now for Chalk Point and Dickerson is a new Maryland state air proposal, that could be adopted in July 2014 and take effect in 2015, that would require expensive and uneconomic new selective catalytic reduction (SCR) installations on those coal units. What NRG did was notify PJM that it won't bid these units into next year's auction for 2017-2018 capacity, an action it can rescind, he added.

The coal units at NRG's Morgantown plant in Maryland have SCRs so their operation won't be affected by the Maryland air proposal, Gaier noted. Morgantown, which also got scrubbers late last decade, shares a common history with Dickerson and Chalk Point as former power plants of Potomac Electric Power.

In the deregulated Maryland power market, it isn't generally possible for any one power plant operator to say it will shut coal capacity and replace it with some other capacity in particular. But it is safe to say that there are several gas-fired power projects in the works in Maryland that could take up the slack, including:

  • Keys Energy Center LLC is developing a new, 735-MW, gas-fired combined cycle plant plant in Prince George’s County, Md., southeast of Washington, D.C.
  • The site for the Keys Plant is within about two miles of the site of a project of Mattawoman Energy LLC, an affiliate of Panda Power Funds. Mattawoman Energy applied July 19 at the Maryland Public Service Commission for approval of this 859-MW, gas-fired project to be located in Prince George’s County.
  • Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is pursuing a Maryland PSC approval for its 1,000-MW Wildcat Point gas-fired power plant in Cecil County, in the state's northeast corner.
  • CPV Maryland LLC has a 785-MW, gas-fired power project in Maryland that is the center of a federal court dispute over whether the Maryland PSC has the authority to pick out a winning project to supply power in the state. This facility, to be located in Waldorf, Md., very near the Mattawoman and Keys projects, is to be called the St. Charles Combined Cycle Facility.
Barry Cassell
About the Author

Barry Cassell

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 26 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.

Barry can be reached at barryc@pennwell.com.

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