SHAWVILLE – NRG Energy Inc. has plans to convert the coal-fired Shawville Power Plant to operate on natural gas, according to David Gaier, spokesperson for the East Region, NRG Energy Centers.
NRG will cease operations of the plant’s coal units as planned in mid-April of 2015. Its current target date for the plant to re-open on natural gas is June of 2016, said Gaier.
He said company officials at NRG reached its final decision to switch the coal-fired Shawville plant to natural gas about six weeks ago. Economic and environmental factors, he said, largely contributed to their decision.
According to him, if NRG continued its coal operations at the plant, it would have to install an extensive, back-end environmental control system. “It was not economically feasible for us to do so,” he said.
“However, we found the coal units could be converted to operate on natural gas. It’s actually pretty simple. And, under natural gas, we would dramatically improve the plant’s emissions profile and be able to comply with the environmental regulations.”
The current Shawville plant, Gaier said, has four coal units. He said that all four coal units will be converted to natural gas and then a gas pipeline will be drilled to transport the gas to the plant. Gaier declined to release any details related to the costs of the plant’s conversion to natural gas.
The Shawville Power Plant currently has 73 employees. It will have approximately 40 employees after the conversion to natural gas, said Gaier, adding he anticipated the local community to benefit from construction jobs during the plant’s conversion process.
“The local community will benefit from the plant’s continued operations under natural gas,” said Gaier. “It’s going to maintain a significant amount of jobs and contribute to the tax base. It’s a win for the local community; it’s a win for the region.”
On behalf of the Clearfield County Commissioners, John A. Sobel, chair, commented, “We are pleased to hear the Shawville Power Plant will stay open and continue to provide family-sustaining jobs to Clearfield County residents.
“This will also certainly enhance the development and growth of natural gas in Clearfield County and support our economy into the future. We do realize this will have an impact on our local coal industry.
“However, it’s our understanding that the plant will retain the ability to burn coal as a fuel source if the decision is ever made to again use coal to fuel the plant. It’s also our understanding that it’ll create local construction jobs as a result of the conversion process.”