Conversion of coal-burning Urquhart unit will cut emissions

Conversion of Urquhart boiler to natural gas cuts emissions

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 11:54 AM
Last updated 8:53 PM
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South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is shuttering or upgrading multiple coal-fired power plant units – including one in Beech Island – that have become increasingly expensive to operate because of stricter pollution control requirements.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is shuttering several coal-fired power units that have become too costly and converting a unit at the Urquhart plant in Beech Island.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. is shuttering several coal-fired power units that have become too costly and converting a unit at the Urquhart plant in Beech Island.

In a filing Wednesday before the state’s Public Service Commission, the utility said its statewide plan includes converting Unit 3 at the Urquhart Steam Generating Plant from coal to natural gas by the end of the year and retiring that unit by 2018.

Urquhart, built in 1953, once burned up to 1,400 tons per day of coal, producing huge volumes of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides just four miles from downtown Augusta. Two of the boilers were converted to natural gas in 2001, eliminating most of the emissions.

The company’s new plan calls for converting the one remaining Urquhart unit to natural gas within the year and also retiring one unit at the utility’s Canadys Plant near Walterboro. The changes at those two sites will affect about 20 jobs this year.

In all, the company will retire up to six coal-fired units at three locations by 2018.

The changes are being made possible, in part, by the utility’s expectation of completing two new power reactors at its V.C. Summer Plant north of Columbia.

“We’ve said that the addition of the two new nuclear units would give us flexibility to look at reducing our reliance on coal and allow us to achieve better fuel diversity in our electric generation portfolio,” said Kevin Marsh, CEO of SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA Corp.

The new nuclear units are expected to go online in 2017 and 2018.

Coal-fired power plants, along with motor vehicle exhaust, are considered the primary causes of ozone-related air pollution, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to reduce through stricter emissions requirements and air quality standards.

The plan to reduce or eliminate emissions from the Urquhart plant follows the recent closure of another coal-fired power plant that once served Savannah River Site. It was closed after a new biomass generating plant at the site was completed earlier this year.

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Sweet son
Sweet son 05/30/12 - 01:40 pm
Good and Bad!

Good for the environment but bad for CSX Railroad. They will miss the revenue from pulling the coal trains. We won't miss them in the Martinez area while in traffic.

carcraft 05/30/12 - 03:50 pm
Nope, just Obama fulfilling

Nope, just Obama fulfilling his promise to bankrupt owners of coal fired plants while driving up the price of electricity! Converting coal plants doesn't come cheap and China will just burn coal and our efforts won’t make a dent in the world wide utilization of coal! and

Iwannakno 05/31/12 - 12:56 am
Cleaner and easier to handle?

Cleaner and easier to handle? Yes..Cheaper? Not most of the time. Right now Gas is cheaper but once all these coal fired plants start using only natural gas the price will skyrocket.

Sweet son
Sweet son 05/31/12 - 01:09 pm
World Markets

We have coal so ship it to other countries who like to consume it!

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