The most efficient coal-fired power plant in North America is located in Maidsville, just outside of Morgantown.
The Longview Power Plant, a $2.2 billion, 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant responsible for providing power to more than 700,000 homes, uses modern techniques that allows less coal to be burned at lower temperatures while still yielding more electrical power than conventional plants.
The HELE, or high efficiency, low emissions plant, was constructed in 2011 and has set industry standards for creating cleaner, more reliable power in a sustainable manner, according to Chad Hufnagal, reliability and performance manager for the facility.
“Because of the efficiency of the plant, we need less BTUs to burn for a much better output,” he said.
This higher efficiency level also results in less environmental impact,” Hufnagal said.
“The less fuel in, the less you are burning; that’s less emissions,” he said. “Less CO2, SO2, NOX and particulate matter.”
The low emissions are made possible by the use of a Amec Foster Wheeler Air Quality Control System.” The system removes harmful gases from the plant’s air emissions, reduces acid mist and minimizes the amount of wastewater discharge, Hufnagal said.
The plant is powered by coal supplied from the nearby four West Mine, owned by affiliate mining company Mepco.
The coal is transferred directly from the mine mouth to the plant using a 4.5 mile-long overground conveyor. At any given point, the facility has enough coal on site to keep the plant going for 20 days, Hufnagal said.
“Within Longview’s property we have 20 days of fuel stored in order to maintain base load operation,” he said.
The use of locally sourced coal helps to reduce the cost of running the plant and adds to the local economy. Each year, Longview and Mepco purchase more than $105 million in goods and services from local and regional vendors, according to information provided by Longview Power.
The plant and Mepco employs more than 600 skilled workers, providing high-paying jobs with a combined annual payroll and benefits of more than $72 million.
While the plant is coal-fired, it relies on natural gas to start up. To ensure that the plant is never without the gas needed to begin operations, the plant invested in the construction of an onsite natural gas pipeline and the world’s largest mobile liquid natural gas (LNG) facility, Hufnagal said.
“From time to time we actually do not have enough from our utility supplier to actually start the plant,” he said. “So we’ve invested in a LNG system and a vaporizer to basically provide us with approximately two startups. We store enough LNG to complete two startups for Longview to provide that base power reliability that we need. We can self-sustain ourselves.”
The fact that the construction of such back-ups was required to operate the plant is evidence that further delivery systems for natural gas are needed in the area, said Jackie Stewart, director of strategic communications for FTI Consulting, a firm that represents Longview Power.
“It speaks to the infrastructure of the region of the Appalachian Basin. We’re obviously sitting on a mountain of Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas, but we still lack critical infrastructure,” she said. “The fact that this had to be done to address those issues underscores the problem that exists in the natural gas space regionally.”
Hopefully, the consistent results displayed by the plant will prove why constructing others like it is a sound and smart investment, Stewart said.
“In the last handful of years, this has been the only working coal plant that’s been built,” she said. “We’ve been communicating with folks that we need to build more Longviews. We have proven here at this plant that you can actually use coal and do it in an environmentally sound way that’s reliable and efficient.”