Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Midwest Generation Power Plants: Fisk, Crawford and Will County

Below are several pictures I took of the Will County plant because it is next to 135th street in Romeoville. I knew that the Fisk and Crawford plants did not have scrubbers and would be shutdown. But I was not aware of this plant, so I did not know if it had scrubbers. Even if it did have scrubbers, it may soon become history because the coal (and nuclear) plants are having a hard time competing with gas-fired plants because of the increase in supply of natural gas caused by horizontal drilling and fracking. According to Romeville Patch, none of the plants have scrubbers because they were grandfathered with respect to the Clean Air Act when Midwestern Generation bought all of ComEd's coal-fired plants in 1999. The article also indicates that Fisk, Crawford, and two of the four stacks of the Will County plant were shutdown in 2012. The Chicago Tribune also has an article on the closing of the two Chicago plants. It indicates that mercury emissions is the pollution issue. But I read something on the company's web site that bragged about them recently adding pollution controls. I wonder if they added scrubbers soon before they closed them.

(Update: It should be no surprise that Midwest Generation went bankrupt rather soon after it closed some of its plants. (I wonder if it owned State Line as well. That plant has not only been closed, it has been torn down.) NRG now owns these plants.)


Fisk went into service October 2, 1903 and closed 2014. The demand for electricity from Samuel Insull's Chicago Edison Company (see below, HAER says Commonwealth Electric Company) was growing so fast that Insull pushed GE it increase the size of the generators. The 1894 16,200-kilowatt Harrison Street Station that used reciprocating engine units was overloaded in less than 6 years.The original 5MW (million watts) steam-turbine generating unit ordered for Fisk was such a significant advance in capacity that when it was retired it was returned to GE's headquarters in Schenectady, New York, to be preserved. 

Source: http://www.ge.com/sites/default/files/1903_in_steam-turbine_l-sliced_0.jpg

The state-of-art before this unit was a 0.6MW unit by GE and a 1.5MW unit by Westinghouse. It was designated a national engineering landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1975.

In 1914, the plant continued its innovation by replacing the vertical-shaft turbines with horizontal-shaft turbines. This spread the weight better across the foundations so that larger, faster spinning turbines could be built.

Because this plant is in the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, the  Historic American Engineering Record has documented it as (HAER) No. IL-105, "Commonwealth Electric Company, Fisk Street Electrical Generating Station". Of note is that it says the Fisk Plant was built by the Commonwealth Electric Company which merged in 1907 with the Chicago Edison Company the Commonwealth Edison Company. The plant can receive coal from barges.

Photo from HAER ILL, 16-CHIG, 140--6 from il0671

Source: Copyleft by Theodore Kloba


According to Wikipedia, this plant could also burn natural gas, so now I'm surprised that it was closed. It was built in 1924 and closed in 2012. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) document No. IL-114, "Commonwealth Edison Company, Crawford Electrical Generating Station" has better pictures than I can hope to take. Of note is the south facade image.

Source: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/il/il0700/il0708/photos/034802pv.jpg
The buildings were designed by the renowned architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. The building in the foreground is the pumping station on the edge of the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Ramon Rhodes posted in Facebook
Update: Ramon took a lot of pictures of this plant because he plans to use it as a photo backdrop on his model railroad of BNSF. He got his pictures while both smokestacks were intact.

Edward Kwlatkowski has a 1989 Flick photo that also shows both smokestacks. A view from the river side. Albert J Reinschmidt Had at least one if not two SW1s based there.

When I took a picture in 2015, the red striped smokestack had already been cut down.

Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with distribution center
Mike Croy posted
Here is an overview of the "new" Corwith yard as seen on the cover of the Santa Fe's 64th. annual report.
[Note the Crawford Plant in the left background with at least three smokestacks.]
Steven J. Brown posted, cropped

William A. Shaffer posted
GM&O E7As #102 & #102A at Chicago, IL (2.23.63)
(Photographer Unknown - Collection of William A. Shaffer)
Chris Hudson Southwest side..near old GM&O freight house 37th & California..
The comment "Chris Hudson Southwest side..near old GM&O freight house 37th & California.." confirmed the smokestacks in the left background is the Crawford Generating Station. I've never seen photos of that station with more than two smokestacks, so I found the station on an old aerial photo.
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
Not only did it use to have four units, the units were of the same design. We can see in William's posting that two of the units have been upgraded. It is worth noting that even the 1938 units were running with very little soot in the smoke.
Dave Arganbright posted
Here's an urban industrial grab shot that I took (probably with "car trouble") at Forest View in 1983. "Power and Bare tables" -- 9 units with a GP20 as the leader!
Dennis DeBruler I had never noticed the coal handling equipment at the Crawford Generating Station before. But it still stands:
Andre Kristopans Crawford was a steam station. Ridgeland (long gone) at Pershing and Ridgeland was another. Most ComEd stations received coal by barge, but each had an SW1 for interplant movements as most cases the coal pile was at the "land" end of the plant.

David Wilson from his photoset
19880514 02 ICG CM&W IMX, Chicago, IL
IMX was a combined Illinois Central Gulf and Chicago, Missouri and Western facility.
[The Crawford plant is the smokestacks on the left side. The smokestacks on the right side are still standing and are for the powerhouse for the Cook County Campus.]

Historic Building Designations are just another opportunity for Chicago city officials to accept bribes? [ArchPaper]

Will County (Romeoville)

This plant has four units:
  • 184 MW, built 1955, retired 2010
  • 188 MW, built 1955, retired 2010
  • 299 MW, built 1957
  • 598 MW, built 1963
From SourceWatch we learn the emmissions were:

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 6,177,903 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 17,306 tons
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 6,324 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 261 lb.
To my surprise, a Chicago Tribune article indicates this plant is dirtier than the old plants. Perhaps because it is bigger and burns more coal. Specifically:

A 2010 report by the National Research Council estimated that pollution from the Romeoville plant costs surrounding areas $187 million a year in hidden health costs, compared with $127 million for neighborhoods near the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago.
According to a press release, they are trying to upgrade at least some of their units rather than close them.

The plant is on the southwest quadrant of the intersection of 135th Street and the Sanitary and Ship Canal in Romeoville.

The beam in the upper-right corner is part of the coal-unloading gantry that we saw in the background of the 135th Street bridge picture. Past the west end of the bridge, I could safely cross the bridge and get a better overview.

It is easier to see the south coal-unloading gantry in this view. I assume the two close smokestacks are for the 2 units that have been shutdown. The main reason for taking this picture is to note the size of the coal storage yard. I had noticed that I had not seen much coal storage at the Fisk and Crawford plants. In fact, one Fisk source talked about dumping the train hoppers right into the conveyor that fed the boilers. Another source talked about underground storage. But you can't store a lot of coal underground. So I wonder if this coal pile was used as the backup inventory for all three plants. That would explain why it is now just half full.

A couple of bulldozers were pushing coal towards the empty part of the coal storage yard. The top on one coming up the hill is visible just to the left of the big pile and the other is just to the right of that pile. I waited a while to catch a better view of them.

A close up of the north gantry:

The following view indicates that the canal-side structure between the two unloading gantrys is a barge loading facility. That reinforces my conclusion that this storage yard provides inventory for other plants.

During a later visit to the bridge (I keep looking for barge activity on the canal), I noticed that they were using an earth mover and a bulldozer to help move the coal towards the empty part of the storage yard.

This is the second of some photos posted by Jerry Jackson in the area.
Halsted Pazdzior posted
Will County Coal Handling bringing in loaded coal cars. Romeoville. 2/7/19
Andrew Shafer Nice catch! I think this one is staying open a few more years now.
Richard Scott Marsh ICG SD20 they never die
Aaron Grace Awesome! Street running on a bridge!
Dennis DeBruler I triple checked your date. That is a recent photo. I read a few years ago in multiple contexts that this plant was converting to gas. But I have noticed that their coal pile was really big. I wonder why they changed their mind and stuck with coal.
Adam Powell Trump regulation rollbacks maybe.
Adam Powell Coal maybe toxic but it works great for generating power. Where are they going to get the power from when the coal fired units shut down? They won't convert the whole plant to gas. They will install gas fired generators for peak usage time.
Dennis DeBruler I had read a few years ago that they were going to shut down the small units and switch a big one to gas. But maybe they then found out how big the gas pipe needs to be for a boiler of that size and the gas company told them they did not have the capacity to serve it. I read about Midwest Generation, the owner before NRG, bragging about adding mercury control to Fisk, Crawford, and some other plants. It struck me as rather poor planning to put money in Fisk and Crawford soon before they closed them down. I also wondered how can you close down your plants and not go bankrupt. The answer is that you go bankrupt. The plans to turn the Fisk land into a CTA repair facility have yet to happen. I've read recently that someone wants to turn the Crawford land into an "order fulfillment facility." Having a big warehouse in the urban area is be a big deal for quick deliveries.
Mark Egebrecht What street is that?
Dennis DeBruler I wonder how many other places in Chicagoland still has "street running" now that the railroad on Goose Island is abandoned.
Jeff Lewis Dennis DeBruler, there's the South Shore in Michigan City of course. Metra Electric 93rd St. branch runs down the median of 71st and Exchange Streets. Metra BI branch runs down the median of 121st St. Maybe some industrial trackage somewhere, but I can't think of any.
Adam Powell commented on Halsted's post
I don't remember where I got this from. Not my picture. This is a little past the end of that line.
Dennis DeBruler commented on Halsted's post
That would explain why they added a big concrete bumper.
Dennis DeBruler commented on Halsted's post
Adam Powell Rafael Cuevas It moves.
I've been taking photos of a Manitowoc 21000 at the plant.

2000 Flickr photo showing the two smaller units are operating

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