Utility commission OKs natural gas line for Duke Energy power plant

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Oct. 6 signed off on a new gas pipeline that will allow Duke Energy Progress to undertake a coal-to-gas repowering of its Asheville plant in the western part of the state.

On June 15, Public Service Co. of North Carolina filed a Natural Gas Pipeline Construction and Transportation Agreement, under seal, between PSNC and the Duke Energy company.

The agreement will provide long-term gas redelivery service to DEP’s proposed new 650 MW natural gas-fired combined cycle plant in Asheville. This plant is part of DEP’s Western Carolinas Modernization Project. It will replace an existing 376 MW coal-fired plant when the coal-fired plant is retired from service.

In addition, the new plant will serve current and growing electric demand in the area. DEP is expected to apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct the new plant in November 2015, with a target commercial operation date in November 2019, the commission noted in the Oct. 6 pipeline order.

PSNC is expanding its existing natural gas pipeline system in western North Carolina to increase its transportation capacity for its customers. Specifically, PSNC determined that it needed to replace its 8-inch pipeline from the Grover takeoff to the Skyland metering and regulating station to address integrity management findings resulting from in-line inspection of the pipeline.

Although the existing 8-inch pipeline meets PSNC’s current needs, it constrains PSNC from serving future growth and new significant firm loads. Because incremental upgrades in pipe size are less expensive than installing additional new pipelines at a later date, PSNC decided to install a new 16-inch pipeline along with two new compressors.

In addition to the system upgrades, PSNC will construct the incremental pipeline facilities necessary to provide transportation redelivery service to DEP for use at the proposed new combined cycle plant in Asheville.

In support of the agreement, PSNC stated that the new power plant’s combined-cycle technology is expected to result in lower environmental impacts than the coal plant by reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, completely eliminating mercury emissions, and reducing levels of water withdrawals and discharges. The company further stated that carbon dioxide emissions will also be reduced on a per MWh basis.

The commission’s Public Staff stated that it had reviewed the agreement and other information and determined that the terms of the agreement are within legal parameters.

Said the Oct. 6 order: “The Commission, having carefully reviewed the Agreement between PSNC and DEP, concludes that the Agreement is not unlawful and does not violate the rules and regulations of the Commission. Accordingly, the Commission finds good cause to allow the Agreement to become effective as filed and authorize PSNC to provide service to DEP pursuant to the Agreement as recommended by the Public Staff.”

In other recent news for this repowering project:

“-Duke told the South Carolina Public Service Commission in an Aug. 21 notice that it plans to apply in late 2015 or early 2016 for approval of a transmission line to serve this new 650 MW power plant. The application will cover the Foothills Transmission Line and associated substation, needed to augment the company’s transmission capacity in western South Carolina and North Carolina. The 230-kV, double-circuit transmission line will be about 45 miles long and will connect a new substation at Campobello, S.C., with a new power plant to be built in Asheville, N.C.

“-Duke Energy on May 19 announced plans to retire the Asheville coal-fired plant in four to five years and modernize its generation and transmission system in western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. The plan’s major components include retiring the 376 MW Asheville coal plant, investing about $750 million to build a 650 MW natural gas-fired power plant in its place, and installing solar generation at the site – one of the first combinations of its kind. The Asheville site already has two gas-fired combustion turbines with a combined capacity of 324 MW.

This plan would only eliminate the coal part of the plant. The plan also includes investing about $320 million to build a transmission substation near Campobello, S.C., and connect it to the Asheville plant with a new nearly 40-mile, 230-kV transmission line.

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Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy's Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication's editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University.

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