FirstEnergy: Hatfield's Ferry Similar to Harrison, But Too
Expensive to Run
The State Journal
10 July 2013
By Pam Kasey
Citing the cost of environmental compliance and a weak market for
electricity, FirstEnergy announced July 9 that it expects this
fall to deactivate two coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania.
The company's southwest Pennsylvania Hatfield's Ferry and Mitchell
power stations — not to be confused with AEP's Mitchell Power
Station in West Virginia — have been scheduled for closure,
subject to a review for possible grid reliability implications.
Both are owned by FirstEnergy's competitive subsidiary Allegheny
Together, the two power stations represent about 10 percent of
FirstEnergy's total generating capacity, according to the company,
but about 30 percent of the estimated $925 million cost to comply
with the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics
Standards, or MATS.
Mitchell is an older power plant with less than 400 megawatts'
But Hatfield's Ferry is larger and more modern. Constructed about
1970, it has a capacity of about 1,700 MW and uses current
supercritical technology. The completion of its scrubber was
announced only a few years ago, in 2010; the shared cost of the
scrubbers at Hatfield's Ferry and Fort Martin power stations was
It's similar in size and vintage to the company's Harrison power
station near Clarksburg that is not proposed for closure — but
there are significant differences, according to FirstEnergy Vice
President of Fossil Engineering and Construction George Farah.
"The biggest difference is that Harrison has something called an
SCR, selective catalytic reduction, that was a retrofit we put on
Harrison and Pleasants stations about 10 years ago," Farah said.
"That reduces nitrous oxide but also helps to reduce mercury — so
Harrison having an SCR allows us to comply with MATS more cheaply
than in Hatfield's case, a plant that does not have an SCR."
In addition, the types of scrubbers the two plants have for
reducing sulfur dioxide emissions are different, he said, and that
also has implications for future costs.
"The type of scrubber that Harrison has doesn't discharge effluent
— it's largely a zero-liquid-discharge type of system," Farah
said. "With Hatfield, it does discharge into the river and we have
permits for that, but as those regulations get tougher Hatfield
may need a wastewater treatment plant that Harrison would not
Both plants would have costs in complying with any future
limitations on carbon dioxide emissions.
The retirement of Hatfield's Ferry is significant, according to
analysts at UBS.
"While FirstEnergy has announced a number of retirements in recent
years, Hatfield's Ferry is the first supercritical, low-heat rate
plant, demonstrating just how tough the current environment is for
even lower-cost (Northern Appalachian)-coal generators," read a
UBS e-mail about the announcement.
"We see today's announcement by FirstEnergy as part of a ‘second
wave' of coal plant capitulations in (regional grid manager PJM
Interconnection's region)," the e-mail read.
FirstEnergy was reported last fall as considering retrofitting
Hatfield's Ferry to burn natural gas in addition to coal, but it
has rejected that idea.
The company considered retrofit or conversion at all of its coal
plants, Farah said, but found that it is both expensive and
creates inefficiencies that undermine any possible cost benefit.
"You'd need new burners, a gas regulation system, gas brought out
to the facility, fire protection systems … and ultimately the
plant is less efficient," he said. "You would have to have gas
even cheaper than it is now for a very sustained period to justify
the capital investment. We believe that a plant designed to burn
gas is the right way to do it rather than converting a plant that
wasn't designed for it."
About 380 plant employees and generation-related positions are
expected to be affected by the plant closures. Eligible employees
will receive severance benefits through the FirstEnergy plan or as
provided by their collective bargaining agreement, the company
With regard to the implications for West Virginia coal, Hatfield's
Ferry got about 14 percent of its coal from West Virginia in 2012:
530,000 tons from the Prime No. 1 mine run by Morgantown-based
coal producer Mepco.
FirstEnergy said its generation fleet after the deactivations
would be composed of 56 percent coal, 22 percent nuclear, 13
percent renewables and 9 percent gas or oil, and it would have a
generating capacity of more than 18,000 megawatts.
With the deactivation of these two plants, in addition to the nine
plants the company announced for deactivation last year, the
company said, nearly 100 percent of its power would come from
resources that are either non- or low-emitting such as nuclear,
hydro, natural gas and scrubbed coal units.
About $650 million the company expects to spend on MATS-related
control technology on its remaining facilities will reduce
emissions of nitrogen oxides by 84 percent, sulfur dioxide by 95
percent and mercury by 91 percent below 1990 levels.
In addition, the company expects to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions 20 to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, almost
entirely due to the closures of coal plants, Farah said.
The plant deactivations are subject to review for reliability
impacts by PJM.