Thursday, September 29, 2016

End of coal draws closer?

The CEO of Duke Energy tells Bloomberg she sees a time in the not-too-distant future when her utility does not burn coal to generate electricity but instead will rely instead on natural gas and renewables for most of its needs.

Duke gets most of its coal by rail, so this doesn't affect the river, right? Not necessarily.

I did a quick piece on this today for the web, which you can find here. If you check the second half, you'll see that Appalachian Power, an operating subsidiary of American Electric Power, says the same thing.

Look for more details on this next week.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A new boat

Today those of us in the Huntington area who were looking at the river got to see something that's rare nowadays -- a new boat.

The M/V Brenda L. Murray II of Murray American Transportation was heading up the river in the tow of the M/V Oliver C. Shearer of Campbell Transportation. C.R. Neale alerted me to the Murray's presence in my area, so I went looking for it, hoping to get a good photo to sell.

I went to Harris Riverfront Park and saw the two boats coming up the river. That was the good news. the bad news was that the Murray was on the Shearer's port side, and the sun was on the Shearer's starboard side, meaning the boat I really wanted to see would be in the other boat's shadow on a bright  sunny morning. But I crossed the bridge anyway and got this shot from Chesapeake.

Then I noticed the Shearer was coming to a stop. There was a van at the park's boat ramp, meaning a crew change was in progress. So I hurried back over to Huntington and got some more pictures, including this one.

After the two boats left, I followed them upriver for a little ways hoping to get a better shot. But the best place I found still had the boats between me and the sun.

I wanted to follow them, but around here at this time of year, solar noon does not come until after 1 p.m., and that was too far away considering other things I had to get done today if I wanted to get paid. I went looking for the boats later, all the way up to Crown City on the Ohio side, after I got some things taken care of and after the sun moved, but it was too late. The Shearer was moving to fast, and I had to get back and tend to family things.

Murray American Transportation runs most of its boats on the Mon and the upper Ohio. They don't get below the Belleville locks often. Maybe the Brenda L. Murray II will be back in this area someday. I hope so.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Who says pigeons are not particularly intelligent?

Not these guys.

Even I was seeking out shade on a day like this.

Friday, September 16, 2016

M/V Stephen T

This boat passes Huntington WV this morning, and as of tonight it's headed back down this way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

AEP confirms sale of Gavin and three other power plants

AEP issued a news release this morning confirming published reports that it had agreed to sell the General James M. Gavin power plant and three others as it exits the merchant generating business in Ohio.

The full text of the news release is below. Toward the bottom you'll see that the hydroelectric plant on the Ohio side of the Racine Locks and Dam could be for sale, too.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 14, 2016 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) has signed an agreement to sell four competitive power plants totaling approximately 5,200 megawatts (MW) for approximately $2.17 billion to a newly formed joint venture of Blackstone (NYSE: BX) and ArcLight Capital Partners LLC (ArcLight).
The sale agreement includes:
  • Lawrenceburg Generating Station, 1,186 MW natural gas, Lawrenceburg, Indiana
  • Waterford Energy Center, 840 MW natural gas, Waterford, Ohio
  • Darby Generating Station, 507 MW natural gas, Mount Sterling, Ohio
  • Gen. James M. Gavin Plant, 2,665 MW coal, Cheshire, Ohio
AEP announced in January 2015 that the company was exploring strategic alternatives for these power plants, including a potential sale. All of this generating capacity is located in the region served by the PJM Interconnection. 
“AEP’s long-term strategy has been to become a fully regulated, premium energy company focused on investment in infrastructure and the energy innovations that our customers want and need. This transaction advances that strategy and reduces some of the business risks associated with operating competitive generating assets,” said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer.
“Our employees have done an incredible job operating these power plants in PJM, and I’m confident that they will contribute to the future success of Blackstone and ArcLight. We will continue to operate these plants safely in the coming months while working closely with the Blackstone and ArcLight teams to obtain the regulatory approvals necessary to complete the sale. We also will be working with employees and community leaders to ensure a smooth transition,” Akins said.  
“Blackstone and ArcLight are two of the leading private equity funds focused on energy infrastructure, with significant investments and experience owning and operating power generation in North America and Europe. Combined they have owned and operated more than 38,000 megawatts of power generation globally, including operations in the PJM Interconnection, New York ISO and Electric Reliability Council of Texas competitive markets in the United States,” Akins said. 
The sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017. AEP expects to net approximately $1.2 billion in cash after taxes, repayment of debt associated with these assets and transaction fees. The company is evaluating options and will share details about its plans for investment of the proceeds from this transaction at an analyst day Nov. 1. These plans may involve reinvestment in its regulated businesses, including transmission; renewable projects; additional debt retirement; and share buybacks.
AEP expects to record an after-tax gain of approximately $140 million from the sale, subject to inventory true-ups, income tax and other adjustments.
The sale is subject to regulatory approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and federal clearance pursuant to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.
Goldman Sachs and Co. served as AEP’s lead financial advisor for the strategic evaluation of these assets. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. also served as a financial advisor for AEP during the process. Simpson Thacher and Bartlett served as legal counsel.

AEP owns 2,677 MW of additional competitive generation in Ohio. The company is continuing an independent strategic evaluation of that generation while also working on the restructuring of Ohio electricity regulations to allow those assets to be acquired by AEP Ohio for the benefit of its customers. AEP also is continuing a separate strategic review of its 48 MW hydroelectric Racine Plant in Racine, Ohio.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gavin sold? (Updated)

American Electric Power has had the Gavin power plant at Cheshire, Ohio, up for sale for nearly two years, and now it looks like a deal is near to sell it.

Gavin is one of the largest power plants on the Ohio River in terms of capacity, but it's been running at lower capacity in recent years as natural gas has produced electricity at less cost than coal.

I checked stats going back to 2001. Last year Gavin generated about 14.17 million megawatt hours of electricity, a pretty big drop from its high of 21.1 million in 2008.Except for a slight uptick in 2014, Gavin's output has decreased every year since 2008. Fracking for natural gas took off in the upper Ohio Valley around 2010, plus 2008 was right before the Great Recession, which for many people in the valley has not yet ended.

Gavin gets the great majority of its coal from mines in Belmont and Jefferson counties in southeastern Ohio, although it also buys some from mines in Kanawha and Marshall counties in West Virginia and some from mines in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

# # #

Here's another version of the story, from the Columbus Dispatch.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

If you want to see something cool ...

... check out this time-lapse video by C.R. Neale on a trip from Vienna WV to St. Marys WV.

I saw another one today on Facebook by a pilot taking the M/V Detroit through the Portland Canal at Louisville, but as far as I know, it's not on YouTube.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

M/V Mary Jane

A week or so ago, ABC Corp. finished work on the new boathouse for the boats operated by the Huntington WV fire and police departments. For several weeks, the M/V Sam S had been on site moving stuff around.

Friday afternoon I went down to the river and the Sam S was gone. So was another boat that I saw there once, the Mary Jane.

As far as I know, this was the first time I had seen the Mary Jane. It looked like a boat that has put in a lot of work over the years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

M/V AEP Legacy

Adam and I toured the M/V AEP Legacy this past weekend at Point Pleasant WV. Here are a few images.

We saw a few sternwheelers, too.

After the Legacy left, we got a few images of boats on the Kanawha.

I was trying my best to get a head-on shot of this one. If you look at its wake, you'll see why I had to keep moving around.

Coming: A conversation we had about what this boat might be doing -- and might not be doing -- in a few years.

Friday, September 2, 2016

M/V Linda Reed at Catlettsburg, Part 2

A week ago, I needed to get out of the house for some decompression time, so I headed down to Catlettsburg KY to see if any boats were there. Lo and behold, the Linda Reed was there, and it was pushing 15 loaded coal barges.

But it was just sitting there, with no wake. coming from its bow. It was soon apparent that she was going to drop her 15 loads there. Which she did.

I filled up most of a memory card, including a side trip to old Lock and Dam 1 on the Big Sandy River, but it was worth it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

M/V Linda Reed at Catlettsburg

It's always nice to see one of my favorite boats in the area.

More later.