Flint Creek Power Plant Environmental Retrofit Plan
To meet strict new EPA regulations, SWEPCO and Flint Creek co-owner Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC) must upgrade Flint Creek or close the plant by 2015 and replace the essential power it provides. SWEPCO has analyzed options and asked the Arkansas Public Service Commission to review the company's plans to install environmental controls on Flint Creek.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has imposed strict new regulations on power plants across the country. SWEPCO must upgrade Flint Creek Power Plant to meet the new EPA regulations or shut the plant down by 2015 and replace the essential power it provides.
- Flint Creek Power Plant provides reliable 24/7 base load power to SWEPCO customers and Arkansas electric cooperative members. It is the only base load power plant in Northwest Arkansas.
- Extensive analysis shows that retrofitting the coal-fueled Flint Creek plant is the most economical and reliable choice – compared to new natural gas combined cycle units or converting the existing Flint Creek unit to natural gas.
- Because the retrofit involves a significant investment, SWEPCO is asking the Arkansas Public Service Commission to review the plan and determine that the project is in the public interest. AECC supports the request.
- SWEPCO filed its request with the Commission on Feb. 8, 2012 (News Release).
- Pending an APSC ruling that the project is in the public interest, as well as approval of environmental permits, construction would begin in 2014 with completion in 2016 (with a one-year extension beyond 2015 to continue operation of the plant while additional environmental controls are being installed).
Reliability – Flint Creek’s Role as a Base Load Plant
- Base load plants provide reliable power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- As a base load plant, Flint Creek is necessary to meet customer demand and Southwest Power Pool reliability reserve requirements, as well as provide voltage support for the local transmission grid.
- Flint Creek is the only base load plant located near the load centers of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and the surrounding area. Proximity to the load center is an important factor in reliability. Even with Flint Creek’s significant generation capacity, Northwest Arkansas depends heavily on power supplied over transmission lines from outside the area.
Analysis of Options
- SWEPCO and plant co-owner AECC have an obligation under Arkansas law to provide reliable electric service at the lowest reasonable cost to our utility customers and co-op members.
- Extensive analysis by SWEPCO and AECC shows that retrofitting the coal-fueled Flint Creek plant is the most economical and reliable choice.
- SWEPCO’s analysis compared:
- The retrofit of the existing coal-fueled unit
- Conversion of the existing Flint Creek unit to natural gas
- A new combined-cycle natural gas plant at the Flint Creek site
- A new combined-cycle natural gas plant elsewhere within the Southwest Power Pool
- SWEPCO and an independent consulting firm evaluated the coal plant retrofit and natural gas alternatives using a range of coal and natural gas prices, emissions allowances and the impact of carbon dioxide regulation. The analyses included compliance with immediate and longer term environmental regulations. Additional analysis of various options has been performed following requests from other parties in the case.
Capital Cost and Rate Impact
- The estimated capital cost of the environmental retrofit is $408 million. SWEPCO and AECC would share the cost at $204 million each.
- SWEPCO – The estimated cost impact for SWEPCO’s Arkansas retail customers, beginning in 2017, will be an increase of approximately $2.97 per month, or 3.85%, for a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month; and approximately 3.87% for commercial and small industrial customers.
- AECC – AECC’s estimate of the wholesale cost impact to its distribution cooperative members is an annual cost of $30 million, or an increase of approximately 3.4 percent.
- The costs of the project -- or alternatives to replace the generating capacity if the plant is retired – are necessary because of EPA regulations affecting the Flint Creek plant. SWEPCO has proposed the retrofit as the most economical and reliable choice for utility customers and cooperative members.
Environmental Control Technology
- To comply with multiple EPA regulations, SWEPCO would install controls for sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), mercury and other hazardous air pollutants:
- A dry flue gas desulfurization system (DFGD), commonly known as a scrubber, reduces sulfur dioxide emissions.
- Fabric filter (FF), commonly known as a baghouse, physically traps and filters particulate matter
- Activated carbon injection (ACI) is a process that reduces mercury emissions.
- Low NOx burners (LNB) and Overfire Air (OFA) provide more efficient combustion of coal in the plant’s boiler, reducing nitrogen oxide emissions
- View illustration (PDF)
- With the retrofit option, new technology will be added to a valuable existing asset to maintain critical reliability and meet stringent new environmental regulations with the least possible cost impact to customers.
- SWEPCO’s filing at the Arkansas Public Service Commission is not required for this type of environmental retrofit project, but SWEPCO is believes it is important for the Commission to see a full analysis and determine whether it is in the public interest for SWEPCO to proceed.
- A Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) or Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) is not required for the retrofit project.
- However, it should be noted that construction of any new generating facility would require a certificate, which is a regulatory approval process that could take longer than a year to complete, depending on the scope and cost of the project and opposition it may draw.
- Pending an APSC ruling in the public interest -- and approval of environmental permits -- begin construction in January 2014
- 30-month construction schedule with equipment in operation by June 2016 (SWEPCO would have a one-year extension beyond 2015 to continue operations if controls are being installed)
- The APSC docket number is 12-008-U.
SWEPCO has presented a realistic solution and an effective compliance strategy that will allow Flint Creek to meet EPA deadlines, improve air quality and continue affordable and reliable service for Northwest Arkansas.
About Flint Creek Power Plant:
- Location: Gentry, Ark.
- Capacity: 528 megawatts
- Owners: AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) – 50% - 264 MW
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC) – 50% - 264 MW
- Operator: SWEPCO
- Fuel: Low-sulfur coal (Powder River Basin, Wyoming)
- Providing affordable, reliable power to SWEPCO and AECC since 1978
- Number of employees: 69 (Flint Creek employees also operate the 300-MW Harry D. Mattison natural gas-fueled peaking plant in Tontitown, Ark.)
- Annual payroll: $3.9 million
- Annual taxes (real estate, personal property): $1.2 million
- 1,500-acre plant site in Benton County includes 500-acre SWEPCO Lake, home of Eagle Watch Nature Trail