It's no secret that coal consumption at power plants is down, so I figured I would use preliminary numbers from the Energy Information Administration to see how much.
The 2015 numbers are preliminary, and I noticed something in them that made me shy away from comparing 2014 deliveries to Ohio River power plants by river with 2015. Instead, I used total consumption numbers for the comparison. There are a lot of power plants along the Ohio -- one nuclear, many coal, some gas and some hydro. I compiled a list of the ten largest power plants based on their rated summer megawatt capacity. I had to take one off this list -- the Beaver Valley plant at Shippingport, PA -- because it's a nuke plant. That left me with nine.
Here is the list that compares these nine plants' coal consumption last year with what they burned in 2014 and in 2005 for a longer-term look. Plants are ranked by summer megawatt capacity.
|Power plant, coal||Megawatts||Coal burned 2005||Coal burned 2014||Coal burned 2015||Change 2014-15||Change 2005-15|
|Gen. James M. Gavin||2,598||7,633,356||6,395,977||5,696,142||-10.94%||-25.38%|
|FirstEnergy Bruce Mansfield||2,510||7,250,336||6,980,909||5,649,620||-19.07%||-22.08%|
|FirstEnergy WH Sammis||2,223||6,777,468||5,332,576||3,950,271||-25.92%||-41.71%|
But what about power produced at those plants, and how does it track coal usage? Here is a chart of power generated.
|Net generation (megawatt hours)|
|Power plant (coal)||2005||2014||2015||Change 2014-15||Change 2005-15|
|Gen. James M. Gavin||19,117,082||15,851,569||14,150,397||-11%||-26%|
|FirstEnergy Bruce Mansfield||18,318,653||17,094,152||13,548,339||-21%||-26%|
|FirstEnergy WH Sammis||14,660,078||11,902,041||8,829,201||-26%||-40%|
We also know that gas has caught coal in power produced at U.S. power plants. Here is a look at the two plants along the Ohio that used the most natural gas last year.
|Power plant, natural gas||Mcf, 2005||Mcf, 2014||Mcf, 2015||Change 2014-15||Change 2005-15|
|Hanging Rock Energy Facility||1,252||6,199,219||61,738,955||67,382,601||9.14%||986.95%|
And here we have the amount of electricity they produced from gas.
|Power plant (natural gas)||2005||2014||2015||Change 2014-15||Change 2005-15|
|Hanging Rock Energy Facility||832,250||7,951,652||9,182,371||15%||1003%|
I was surprised to see the Hanging Rock plant, which went into production in July 2003, produced more electricity last year than Trimble County or Cardinal or Mountaineer. But as been discussed, when utilities supply electricity to the grid, they use the cheapest power first, and right now that cheap power comes from gas.
Another surprise: About a week ago the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Bruce Mansfield plant at Shippingport had been idled. The idling affects more than the plant. A limestone quarry in Kentucky has had to lay off people because with no coal being burned, there is nothing to scrub, and the limestone for scrubbers was hauled by barge.
Several of these numbers will need to be revised later in the year when final numbers for 2015 are released, but it's clear that as coal loses market share to natural gas in the utility market nationally, it's doing the same here in the Ohio Valley, too.