by Bill Mardis
If East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has its way, both generating units at John Sherman Cooper Power Station will continue to burn coal despite very strict greenhouse gas emission regulations proposed Friday by the Obama administration.
The proposed emission regulations do not apply to existing power plants, but the Environmental Protection Agency will propose greenhouse gas standards next June for existing plants. Coal industry sources contend the proposed emission standards, if implemented, would make it financially unfeasible to build and operate a new coal-fired generating plant.
Despite what many eastern Kentucky coal fields call President Obama’s “War on Coal,” East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) currently has before the Kentucky Public Service Commission a request to review and approve a $15 million project that EKPC says would meet tightening federal air regulations and keep an older generating unit a viable part of John Sherman Cooper Power Plant’s generating capacity.
EKPC proposes to construct ductwork to tie Cooper’s Unit No. 1 into Unit No. 2’s scrubber which has sufficient capacity to handle the additional emissions.
“We are in the process of getting necessary permits,” said Nick Comer, spokesman for EKPC.
“Connecting Unit No. 1 by ductwork to the recently installed scrubber on Unit No. 2 will bring Unit No. 1 into compliance with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency regulations) and extend the life of our older unit,” Comer said.
A circulating dry scrubber was added to Unit No. 2 last year at a cost of about $225 million. The construction project included a 56-acre expansion of the plant’s special waste landfill. The on-site landfill is used for dry disposal of coal ash and other coal combustion byproducts.
“This proposal for Unit No. 1 is simply ductwork, a large pipe if you will, to take flue gases from Unit 1 to Unit 2. Emissions from Unit 1 will be cleaned by the new scrubber on Unit 2,” Comer explained. He said EKPC hopes to have the ductwork operational by 2015. How greenhouse gas regulations next year will affect Cooper Station is not known.
EKPC’s decision to connect Unit No. 1 with Unit No. 2’s scrubber apparently has set aside recent discussions about switching from coal to natural gas to fuel Unit No. 1. Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said last year city engineers had talked with EKPC about constructing a 30-inch pipeline from nationwide natural gas transmission sources to provide natural gas as a fuel for Unit No. 1. Using ductwork to tie Unit 1 to Unit 2 is a very affordable alternative and is the “selected proposal,” Comer said.
Girdler confirmed and Comer indicated talks about Somerset supplying Cooper Station’s Unit No. 1 with natural gas are no longer under way.
Both generating units at Cooper Station are fired by coal. Unit No. 2, on line in October 1969, produces 225 megawatts of electricity. The plant’s first generating unit, on line in February 1965, produces 116 megawatts of electricity. The total 341 megawatts are enough to power homes in about 30 cities the size of Somerset.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative is a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative providing wholesale electricity to 16 owner-member distribution cooperatives, including South Kentucky RECC. EKPC is the electrical source for 520,000 Kentucky homes, farms, businesses and industries across 87 counties.
The cooperative provides power through coal-fueled plants located in Mason, Clark and Pulaski counties; natural gas-fueled peaking units in Clark County; renewable energy plants in Boone, Laurel, Greenup, Hardin, Mason and Pendleton counties; and nearly 2,800 miles of transmission lines. Together, EKPC and its 16 owner-member cooperatives are known as Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.