FirstEnergy Considering Gas Co-Firing for PA Coal Plants
Pittsburgh Business Times
5 October 2012
By Anya Litvak, Reporter
FirstEnergy Corp. is considering burning natural gas along with
coal at five of its power plants, including three in Pennsylvania.
The decision, which would require installing new boilers capable
of duel-fuel firing, is still years in the future and will depend
on many factors, such as proximity to a natural gas pipeline, the
price of gas, the cost of equipment upgrades and more, according
to FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin.
The first decision would likely be made in 2014 and would
determine the fate of Hatfield’s Ferry, a three-boiler plant in
Masontown, Fayette County, with a capacity of 1,710 megawatts.
The other four plants under consideration for gas co-firing are:
Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport - 2,490
Mitchell Power Station in Courtney - 370 MW
Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island, W.Va.
- 1,300 MW
Harrison Power Station in Haywood, W.Va. -
Hatfield’s Ferry has one big advantage in favor of gas — it’s near
a major natural gas pipeline, the Texas Eastern Transmission line
that runs across the bottom of the state. That’s why FirstEnergy
has zeroed in on the Masontown plant ahead of others, Durbin said,
since the company estimates that each mile of pipeline would cost
between $2 million and $5 millon to construct.
That and the fact that Hatfield’s boilers need to be replaced in
the coming years anyway, so it’s natural to consider whether a
dual-fuel boiler would make sense in the context of the prolific
Marcellus and Utica shales underneath. Also, the price of gas must
continue to stay low if the project is thought to be viable.
Durbin said it’s unlikely that FirstEnergy would go through with
co-firing if natural gas prices slip out of their current under $3
valley. That would make gas uncompetitive with the price of coal,
“We would just need to have a pretty good projection into what
it’s going to do,” he said of the price of natural gas. As a note
of caution, Durbin thought back to the 1970s when powerplants in
the Northeast switched to natural gas for environmental reasons,
which created a shortage of gas for heating and drove up its
Once that happened, “it didn’t make sense to use it anymore,” he
If FirstEnergy says go on to co-firing at Hatfield’s, it would
install three $20 million boilers capable of burning a fuel mix
with 25 percent to 40 percent natural gas.
Anya Litvak covers energy, transportation, gaming, engineering and
construction. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412)