Saturday, June 6, 2020

NIPSCO is planning to close its remaining coal fired plants

NIPSCO has already closed some coal-fired plants. And when NIPSCO put together a plan that was required by Indiana they discovered that they could buy renewable energy and use storage more economically than continuing to run their remaining coal plants. They also discovered that renewable energy was cheaper than natural gas! [InsideClimateNews] They would close all of their coal-fired power plants now if they could. But they first have to find replacement power sources and build new transmission lines. But they now plan to have them all closed by 2028 instead of their 2016 plan of closure by 2037. And in the 2016 plan they thought that combined-cycle gas turbines, not green energy, would replace the coal plants. [InsideIndianaBusiness]

In 2011 NIPSCO agreed to close the Dean Mitchell Station and spend $600m to upgrade Bailly, Schahfer and Michigan City generating stations for compliance with 1970s EPA regulations. [gem-deangem-bailly, etc.] The section below concerning the Schahfer plant includes photos of a Manitowoc 21000 crane helping with that upgrade.

1959,70 384 MW Dean H. Mitchell Station went standby in 2001 and was demolished in 2018

This was not a big lost by coal-fired standards because it produced "only" 500 MW. (I put "only" in quotes because that is still a lot compared to Midwest hydropower plants and wind farms.) And this plant is in a urban area, so pollution is a bigger concern. [ogj,ChicagoCrusader] This source, gem-dean, states the capacity is 384 MW.
3D Satellite

Tom Cera posted
NIPSCO Dean Mitchell Plant, Gary Indiana 1980

An Art Gross Flickr photo of the beginning of the demolition in 2018.

1962,68 604 MW Bailey Station was retired in 2018

I included the ponds along the left (south) side because they are toxic wastewater ponds.
3D Satellite

Bojidar 93, Mar 2017
Now the focus is on NIPSCO cleaning up the site. There is more information below concerning the removal of the toxic wastewater ponds. For this plant, NIPSCO also needs to fix "downgradient damage" to the Indiana Dunes National Park. [epa] This site has a gas-fired peaking plant that will continue to operate during periods of high demand.

Bob Bolhuis posted
NIPSCO’s decommissioned Bailly Station
Pete Santilli: First plant I did controls for (Bailey 760 system) and the first plant I worked a startup. 1968. First time I saw steam lines swaying from water hammer... Scared the s**t out of me.. 🙂

Nathan Blank commented on Bob's post

1976,79,83,86 1,943 MW Schahfer Station to be retired in 2023


Courtesy: NIPSCO
A 2016 Center for Public Integrity-USA Today-Weather Channel investigation identified the NIPSCO Schahfer plant as one of the nation’s 22 “Super Polluters” -- power plants and industrial facilities that emit the most toxic pollution and greenhouse gases in the country. Schahfer emitted 8.8 million tons of greenhouse gases into the air in 2014 and more than 1.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals.[1][gem-schahfer]
safe_image for NIPSCO looks at closing one coal-fired power plant, part of another
This Times file photo shows the Schahfer Generating Station five years ago [2011] when work was underway on a new smokestack, at left, which was built to control pollution. Two of four coal-fired electric generating units at the plant would be closed in 2023 under plans unveiled by NIPSCO on Tuesday.
John Luke, The Times
"The plan will also raise concerns about the impact on residential customers’ bills. The cost to NIPSCO customers would come largely from what are called 'stranded costs,' which are costs associated with the closed generating stations that could still be part of customer bills for years to come."

I first learned about the pollution control upgrades in a crane Facebook group. I recognize the Manitowoc 21000 crane as a rather big (and expensive) one.
Kerst De Jong shared
David Kinder 21000
Peter Wareham Octa track I saw this crane at Kyger Creek power plant in Ohio nearly 20 years ago.
Mark Goodrich This picture is from Schaeffer Station powerhouse in Indiana. I ran it for over a year. It was not set up narrow track as someone mentioned. B&W was the contractor. Graycor took the crane over to finish some ductwork.
Dennis DeBruler They built 499' stacks in 2011 as part of $510m project. Now NIPSCO plans to close the plant by 2023.!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4...
Mark Goodrich Dennis DeBruler Their are 4 units down there. Can't see them shutting down all 4. There is still work going on there. I see it as NIPSCO wants out of the generation business.
Dennis DeBruler Mark Goodrich They certainly want out of the coal generation business. I was shocked to learn that they plan to walk away from their half-billion dollar investment in just a little over 10 years, but I've come across several articles indicating that is their plan. For example:

Mark Goodrich commented on Kert's post

This doesn't look like a 21000 because it doesn't have 8 crawler tracks. Was it a 16000?
Gary Diefendortt posted
NIPSCO Schahfer Generating Station, Wheatfield, IN. 
B&W FGD retrofit in 2012. Scrubber section lift.
Gary Diefendortt commented on his post
Even had a model of the same crane in the B&W Construction lobby.

[In 2011 NIPSCO spent $510m building two 499' stacks and other improvements to reduce emissions, but now plans to shut down the plant by 2013. [EnergyStorageNewsBug(paycount 3)]]

Ray Gollnick posted
Dustin Stamps: Mike McGraw we have a transformer on the property they opted not to move it over and hook it up.
Carl Jakubowski: Are there any of the four units left in operation?
Douglas Jay Hurd: Carl Jakubowski 17/18 are still [Dec 19, 2022] going.
Joe LaDuca: Transformer fires can get very intense. Turkey Point in south Florida had a new main transformer fire during startup. A shipping strap was left attached shorting an oil cooling line. Blew away the sprinkler ring headers.
Eugene Wilkins: I am hanging in there, shutting down in 2025 also. 17/18 was never like 14/15. It was a good time over there.
Douglas Jay Hurd commented on Ray's post, cropped

0:49 video @ 0:47

1974 540 MW Michigan City Station to be retired in 2028



Greg Mallory posted
NIPSCO Michigan City, IN ........ there during a Scrubber/Baghouse install
Phillip Ball-Reed commented on Greg's post
Here’s one half of the superheater header they replaced in 2018. Huge outage!
Brennen Williams: Absolutely love the old signage. It’s something you don’t see on plants anymore.

I read about a power plant being threatened by the migration of Mount Baldy, a big sand dune. Obviously, this is the plant they were referring to. That dune is basically a huge sand pile. My kids and I had a lot of fun playing on it. Unfortunately, a kid fell into a hole in the dune a while back. He was saved, but, the last time I checked, people can no longer play on it.
Credit: Joe Passe/CC-BY-SA-2.0 [That is a small fraction of Mount Baldy in the foreground.]

The NAACP is arguing that the unit in this plant should be retired before the four units at Wheatfield are retired because a lot of African Americans live under the pollution plume of this plant. This plant has more pollution controls than the Schahfer plant has and new transmission lines have to be built are the reasons given for the delay.  [EnergyNews]
Michigan City was among 75 coal plants that earned an ‘F’ grade in the NAACP’s 2011 “Coal Blooded” report....The Michigan City grade also factored in the plant’s 2007-2010 nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, both of which cause respiratory illnesses. NIPSCO has since installed scrubber technology there to reduce both emissions. But the concern over health impacts remains, Troutman said, especially for asthma among the uninsured. “When you talk about getting this skyrocketed bill from hurrying up to go to the emergency room for an asthma attack, that costs money,” Troutman said. “Consistently giving a newborn child Albuterol to cover this baby who was born with asthma, that costs money.”
I gather that the particulate removers that were required in smokestacks by the 1970s EPA regulations don't remove the very small particles. Ironically, research has shown that they are the most dangerous particles. Does rain remove these very small particles from the atmosphere?
Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Michigan City
In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[2] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of sootheavy metalssulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[3]
Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Michigan City Generating Station
Type of ImpactAnnual IncidenceValuation
Heart attacks45$4,900,000
Asthma attacks480$25,000
Hospital admissions21$480,000
Chronic bronchitis17$7,700,000
Asthma ER visits30$11,000
Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed March 2011

Getting rid of the toxic wastewater ponds

I've learned that what I would call fly ash or coal ash is called CCR (Coal Combustion Residuals) by the EPA. CCR is the toxic content of the 13 wastewater ponds at Bailly, Schahfer and Michigan City. At least in Michigan City: "Groundwater samples showed arsenic, lithium, molybdenum and thallium, documents show. One coal ash pond sampled showed arsenic levels at least four times the allowed limit in drinking water." [ChicagoTribune]

First of all, I'm surprised they are storing fly ash instead of selling it as a cement substitute. I can't find my notes where I described how volcano ash was determined to be the secret as to why the Romans made such good concrete. And fly ash can be substituted for some of the cement to improve concrete in a manner similar to volcano ash. Since fly ash makes concrete better and cheaper, why doesn't NIPSCO sell their fly ash instead of creating hazardous wastewater ponds? I think the reason is that they would have had to use better scrubbing equipment. [DeBruler] From what I can tell, NIPSCO is on the trailing edge, not the leading edge, of pollution control. In fact, they have two "high hazard" coal waste dams at Schahfer. [gem-schahfer]

To retire their wastewater ponds, they first built a landfill at Schahfer that was designed to safely contain CCR. [SargentLundy] The EPA has issued new rules to remedy "known groundwater impacts." [ChicagoTribune] That makes me wonder what landfills were built with older rules and what were the groundwater impacts. NIPSCO claims "the data collected to date indicates there is no risk to human health or the environment, no impacts to drinking water supplied by neighboring communities and nothing to indicate that the State’s waterways are affected." [ChicagoTribune]

Pollution Upgrades

The more I researched NIPSCO pollution control improvements, the more confused I got. I've seen the figures $510m for Schahfer, $600m for three plants and $800m for Schahfer and Michigan City. [NWItimes]. But evidently they didn't upgrade Schahfer and Michigan City equally because one of the reasons NIPSCO claims that it is supposed to be OK to delay retiring the plant affecting an African-American community until 2018 is that the Michigan City plant has more pollution control. [EnergyNews] Whatever they spent in 2011, I think it got the plants upgraded to just 20th Century rules concerning sulfur, etc. The expense of conforming to 21st Century rules concerning mercury, etc. is one of the reasons they want to close them. I found an overwhelming amount of information concerning the wastewater ponds and landfills, but I couldn't find anything about compliance with emission regulations. [NIPSCO-regulatory] What I would like to see is a table with the emmission regulations as the rows and the three plants as the columns. In each cell would be a project id. Then for each project id, I want to see the date, amount spent and a link to a page that describes the project. The project description would include some construction photos.

Plans are made to be changed

Only Texas burns more coal than Indiana does. The coal industry in Indiana is not happy about more plants being closed. So they have "hired former Trump administration EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as a lobbyist to persuade the legislature to intervene." The coal interests are trying to force NIPSCO to redo the study assuming the Trump administration relaxes the EPA pollution rules. They are also lobbying for a law that would raise the electric rates to pay for the expense of keeping the coal plants running. A diverse mix of fuel sources seems to be the primary argument as to why someone would want to pay more for their electricity. [InsideClimateNews: 1 and 2]

Natural gas is definitely cheaper than coal. [Forbes] What I have not been able to figure out is whether or not the Federal government is still subsidizing the wind and solar industries.

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