Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Not gone (yet) and not forgotten: Marathon Petroleum

So if Marathon is transferring its marine assets to its pipeline master limited partnership MPLX on Friday, does this mean we might not see the Marathon name on the sides of its boats? And was this the last time I will see a Marathon boat?

We'll see Friday, I guess. If you have any information on this, please pass it along.

An old power plant being demolished

Casey Junkins, who does a pretty good job covering the natural gas industry for The Wheeling Intelligencer, has an article today about demolition of the old R.E. Burger power plant along the Ohio River just across from Moundsville, WV.

According to the article, the site could be used for an ethane cracker.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gone But Not Forgotten, Part 1: Ashland Oil marine operations

This is the first of an occasional series on boats, bridges and other parts of Ohio River life that have been left behind by time.

With the news that Marathon Petroleum is transferring its marine assets to MPLX at the end of this month, I got to thinking about what someone told me a long time ago. That was if Paul Blazer cane back from the dead to see his old company, he would need dental records to identify it.

The Allied Ashland was frequently seen in the middle and upper Ohio River before Ashland sold it. It was one of two 1940s-era boats that had three engines generating a total of 4,800 horsepower. The Allied Ashland and its sister boat, the Aetna Louisville, were renamed by their new owners and later sold to South America, where they work the Parana River.

Blazer was the founder of Ashland Oil and Refining Company, which became Ashland Oil Inc. and later just Ashland Inc. The reason I was thinking of him had to do with three boats -- the Nashville, the Ohio Valley and the Paul G. Blazer.

As best I can think of, those three boats are the last of the line-haul boats that Ashland Inc. had built. The Vavoline was first, in 1987. It was followed by the Paul G. Blazer and the SuperAmerica, although I can't remember now which was second and which was third.

In the mid to late 1990s, Ashland Inc. came under pressure from some investor groups to do some heavy reorganizing. As part of that, Ashland placed its refining and marketing operations into a joint venture with Marathon Petroleum. The joint venture, known as Marathon Ashland Petroleum, began business in January 1998, and the boats carried the MAP name. Barges built after that carried the MAP designation, although the older barges still said AO or AOI or even AO & RC.

The deal forming the joint venture allowed Marathon to buy out Ashland's interest, and that happened in 2005. The three boats still had their Ashland-era names, but the name of the operators as listed on the sides of the boats changed.

In 2011, Marathon changed the names of two of the boats. The Valvoline became the Nashville and the SuperAmerica became the Ohio Valley. That made sense, as Marathon had no reason to promote brands it did not own. The name of the Paul G. Blazer was not changed.

So up to now the boats have changed ownership twice in their nearly 18 30 years of operation, and they are about to change for a fourth time. If I had the Inland River Record on a DVD or something, I might be tempted to figure out if this is normal or not when compared to how often boats of a certain size change ownership.

We used to see the three boats all the time here in the middle part of the Ohio Valley, but not so much anymore. The newer boats -- the Detroit, the Kentucky and the Marathon -- are seen fairly often, as the three Ashland-era boats spend a lot of time on the lower Ohio or the Upper Mississippi.

I did see the Paul G. Blazer last month, but it has been a while since I laid eyes on the other two.

Next: Some of the former Ashland boats.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Only four boats in done day?

If anyone needed another indication of how much river traffic has fallen off here in my area, take at look at this number. According to the Corps of Engineers, only four boats went through the Robert C. Byrd (nee Gallipolis) Locks and Dam on Friday, March 25.

Four boats.

Either the number is wrong or traffic is way down. I remember growing up along the river in that area, and four boats was a normal afternoon not that long ago.

The four boats, for the record, were the City of Paducah, the Findlay, the Kim M. Settoon and the Transporter.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jeffboat is building towboats again

Details in the Waterways Journal.

A new toy to play with

I hadn't heard of the Nix Collection until Google made it available for free. Even if I had heard of it, I probably would have had trouble justifying the expense.

But I decided to try it, and here is the result of the first image I took far enough to save. It's the M/V Jincy as seen at Virginia Point Park in Kenova WV back on January 30.

There will likely be more to come in the next few weeks as I play around with this thing and learn some of the cool stuff it does. And as I learn how it can get me into trouble.

Monday, March 21, 2016

By the Numbers: Coal use down at Ohio River power plants

© 2016 Jim Ross. 

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.

Fuel consumed

Power plant, coalMegawattsCoal burned 2005Coal burned 2014Coal burned 2015Change 2014-15Change 2005-15
Gen. James M. Gavin2,5987,633,3566,395,9775,696,142-10.94%-25.38%
FirstEnergy Bruce Mansfield2,5107,250,3366,980,9095,649,620-19.07%-22.08%
JM Stuart2,3177,778,0914,459,1694,459,1690.00%-42.67%
Synthetic coal
FirstEnergy WH Sammis2,2236,777,4685,332,5763,950,271-25.92%-41.71%
Trimble County2,1851,645,1643,293,9343,684,11311.85%123.94%

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)200520142015Change 2014-15Change 2005-15
Gen. James M. Gavin19,117,08215,851,56914,150,397-11%-26%
FirstEnergy Bruce Mansfield18,318,65317,094,15213,548,339-21%-26%
JM Stuart14,414,58810,299,2669,798,935-5%-32%
Synthetic coal7,551,55500NA-100%
FirstEnergy WH Sammis14,660,07811,902,0418,829,201-26%-40%
Trimble County3,864,5297,324,6438,256,74613%114%

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, 2005Mcf, 2014Mcf, 2015Change 2014-15Change 2005-15
Hanging Rock Energy Facility1,2526,199,21961,738,95567,382,6019.14%986.95%
Trimble County

And here we have the amount of electricity they produced from gas.

Power plant (natural gas)200520142015Change 2014-15Change 2005-15
Hanging Rock Energy Facility832,2507,951,6529,182,37115%1003%
Trimble County289,906893,0111,000,89912%245%

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Late afternoon at Big Sandy harbor

The William B leaving the Ohio and heading up the Big Sandy River.

The Ingram boats are the James E. Anderson, the James Paul Ayers and the Ocie Clark. I didn’t get a good ID on the smaller one next to the Anderson. The Ozzie was nearby, as was the Dorothy Lee.

And a pair of Marathon boats were waiting there at Catlettsburg. I think the Paul G. Blazer was up the river at the terminal at Kenova.

Coming soon:

Gone But Not Forgotten, Part 1: Ashland Oil marine operations

Most of the first installment is written. I just need to find some pictures that I have taken over the years.