* Plant virtually complete, costs $3.3 billion
* Duke retired three old coal units at plant in 2011
* Tells public flares will be seen, heard during testing
By Scott DiSavino
Oct 18 U.S. power company Duke Energy Corp
said construction of its 618-megawatt (MW) Edwardsport
coal-fired power plant in Indiana was "virtually complete" and
testing was under way to prepare the facility to begin operating
The $3.3-billion plant has produced electricity using
natural gas, and was close to running coal through gasification
equipment, Duke said in a statement earlier this week.
Edwardsport is one of just a few integrated gasification
combined cycle (IGCC) plants in the United States. IGCC
technology converts coal into synthetic gas that is burned in
the gas turbines to make electricity. The gasification process
strips out pollutants such as sulfur from the coal before
burning the gas.
Over the summer, Duke said it would delay commercial
operation of the Edwardsport plant from September to 2013. Since
it was first proposed, the estimated cost of the project has
increased from about $1.98 billion to about $3.3 billion now,
which includes financing.
Indiana regulators approved Duke's proposal to build the new
plant at Edwardsport in 2007. That plan included the retirement,
in 2011, of three small coal-fired units at the 160-MW site that
were built in the 1940s and 1950s. Edwardsport is located about
100 miles (161 km) southwest of Indianapolis, the Indiana state
The company issued the statement this week to notify the
public that they may see a bright, and somewhat loud, gas flare
from the plant, which will be especially noticeable at night.
If the synthetic gas produced in the gasification process
does not meet certain standards, Duke said the gas will be
diverted to the gas flare tower on the plant property, where it
will be ignited and burned safely.
The company has not yet run coal through the gasification
equipment, so there have not been any flares, Angeline
Protogere, a spokeswoman at Duke, told Reuters Thursday.
Duke said the gas flare will also be used during each
start-up and shut-down of the plant.
The flare will last only as long as it takes to shut down
the coal gasification process, usually less than 30 minutes.
"I want to emphasize that whenever the gas flare is
activated, it does not indicate any emergency at the plant,"
Edwardsport Plant Manager Jack Stultz, said in a statement.
"It is a normal part of plant operations. Because the gas
flare may need to be activated quickly, we won't be able to
provide advance notice to local residents. We appreciate
everyone's understanding and patience," Stultz said.
There will be gas flare events during the testing and
start-up process over the next several months. The plant will
also use the flare during regular commercial service, but it
should not be as frequent as during testing and startup, Duke
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy's Indiana unit
supplies power to about 790,000 Indiana customers and owns about
6,800 MW of generating capacity.