Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stuart, Killen power plants to close?

I'll have to check into this further, but Dayton Power & Light says it plans to close its J.M. Stuart and Killen power plants, both on the Ohio River between Portsmouth, Ohio, and Maysville, Ky., by the middle of next year.

In terms of generating capacity, Stuart is one of the ten largest power plants along the Ohio, if I recall my numbers and rankings correctly.

Monday, January 30, 2017

AEP completes sale of Gavin

American Electric Power has completed the sale of its General James Gavin Power Plant, one of the largest power plants along the Ohio River, and three smaller gas-fired plants.

The news release follows.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 30, 2017 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) today completed the sale of four competitive power plants to Lightstone Generation LLC, a joint venture of Blackstone (NYSE: BX) and an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners LLC (ArcLight), for approximately $2.1 billion. 
AEP announced Sept. 14, 2016, that it had reached an agreement to sell the plants to Lightstone Generation. The sale includes 5,200 megawatts of generation all located in the region served by the PJM Interconnection:
  • 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 will net approximately $1.2 billion in cash after taxes, repayment of debt associated with these assets and transaction fees. The company is investing the proceeds from the sale in its regulated businesses, including transmission and contracted renewable projects.
AEP recorded an after-tax gain, subject to customary true-ups, of approximately $130 million from the sale.
AEP plans to sell its coal- and gas-fired generating assets in Ohio, where the electric utility industry has been deregulated.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Barge ratesdropping

This is from a week ago, and I should have linked to it then, but that's water under the bridge.

The Waterways Journal had a long article on why barge rates are low, why there are too many barges on the rivers and related thoughts. If you have the time, it's worth the read.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

President Trump's infrastructure plan

McClatchy Newspapers has obtained the latest version of a working list of the 50 top infrastructure projects of the Trump administration. Three listed projects directly affect the Ohio. They are, including their rank on the priority list:

2. The Brent Spence Bridge at Cincinnati, $2.5 billion.
4. Locks and dams 52 and 53, $3 billion.
45. Upper Ohio navigation improvements (Emsworth, Dashields, Montgomery), $1.7 billion.

There are also two projects listed on tributaries.

42. Chickamauga Lock and Dam on the Tennessee River, $383 million.
46. Monongahela River navigation (Charleroi Locks and Dam), $900 million.

On other rivers, the plan includes

37. Upper Mississippi locks and dams 20-25, $1.8 billion.
38. Illinois River locks (Lagrange and Peoria), $640 million.

A few more bridge demolition photos

Here are some more pictures I got Monday as the first stop in the dismantlement of the old Ironton-
Russell Bridge began.

First, a view from the Kentucky side of the river above the bridge.

Here, from the Ohio side, is a view of guys who I assume are operating the cables that lowered part of the center span. I know the engineers did the math and all, but it must have been odd being up there and wondering what to do if something didn't go as planned.

Toward the end of the lowering, there was a sliver of daylight between the metal and the barges.

These guys probably had the best view of the whole process.

It must have been great to be the photographer hired by the company to document the work,if there was one.

What are these things on the remaining bridge structure? I don't know, but we'll probably find out soon enough.

And finally, I tried to get all artsy with a shot, but it didn't work. Maybe next time.

The people who watched the work got a good show. A slow-motion show, but a good one.

The old bridge is too close to too many homes on the Kentucky side and too many businesses on the Ohio side to allow for demolition by explosion. Those are always nice to experience (when all goes as planned), but this was interesting, too. Plus if you are a little late, you still get to see something.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dingdang it, as a Baptist preacher of my acquaintance would say

I took down a recent entry on cargo movements on the Ohio in 2016. Someone pointed out an error. I went back to my spreadsheets and found a formula had replaced a number somehow, throwing a bunch of numbers off. So now I need to go through them all again. I'll post a corrected version when it's available.

I hate making errors, but I also appreciate people pointing them out so I can correct them. As long as they're polite, of course. If I want nastiness and snark, I'll go to Twitter or Facebook.

More on coal

Here are a couple of articles I did for The State Journal, a weekly business newspaper based in Charleston, W.Va., on coal trends in 2016.

First is one about coal shipments through the locks and dams on the West Virginia border, with a mention of what happened on the Kanawha River, too. While working on this article, I decided to learn if West Virginia shipped more coal to power plants by barge or by rail in 2016. The answer: by barge.

And there's this one about how a couple of power plants above Maysville, Ky., have switched their coal sourcing from Appalachia to Illinios in the past eight years.

In case anyone wonders why I chose 2008 as a base year for comparison, I had been asked to do a piece about President Obama, President Trump, the War on Coal and the outlook for the future.

I learned long ago to stay out of the prediction business, as I'm not very good at it. When someone asked me to say what West Virginia would be like thirty years from now, my first thought was to go back to 30 years ago and ask if I could have predicted fracking, the extent of the decline in the coal industry and other economic trends. That answer was along the lines of, "Are you kidding? Who did?"

P.S. In case anyone is interested, CSX says it sees an increase in export sales helping to stabilize coal markets this year.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What goes up ...

... must come down, even if it takes nearly a hundred years.

Today the center span of the old Ironton-Russell Bridge connecting the two cities in Ohio and Kentucky was lowered to a couple of barges anchored in the main channel of the Ohio River. I got there a few hours after the process started, but I still shot a lot of images that I will have to go through and perhaps post tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Atmospheric mercury on the decline

Retiring older power plants and adding pollution-control equipment to larger plants has helped reduced the amount of atmospheric mercury in the Northeast, according to a recent study published by the American Chemical Society.

The study confirms that regional mercury concentrations are mainly affected by regional changes and are not overwhelmed by global mercury pollution, something researchers were not certain of before the study.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest human-generated source of the neurotoxin mercury to the atmosphere. Some of this mercury—in its oxidized form or bound to particles—reaches waterways, where it builds up in ecosystems and concentrates in fish, threatening environmental and human health. ...

The team found that mercury in various forms declined between 2 and 8% per year. Prior to 2000, mercury decreases were primarily attributable to decreasing emissions from waste incineration, whereas falling regional power plant emissions were behind decreases since then.

Philip K. Hopke, a study coauthor, says the recent declines in mercury are probably caused mainly by many closures of coal-fired power plants in the region due to economic drivers like the 2008 recession and a shift toward fracking and cheaper natural gas. Placing controls on power plant emissions has also helped, he says.

An abstract of the published article refers to three different kinds of mercury found in the atmosphere: gaseous element mercury (GEM), gaseous oxidized mercury (GOM), and particle-bound mercury (PBM). While GEN and GOM have declined, concentrations of particle-bound mercury are increasing, probably due to burning wood for heat, the abstract says.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's a nice feeling ...

... walking into a conference room and finding that your hosts enjoyed an article you wrote and they have two copies of that magazine open to that page so everyone can see it.

Now it's time to see if I can get them to enjoy the next one as much if not more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A favorite place

There are a lot of places along the Ohio River where I like to spend an hour or two in summer. This is one of them.

It's at the mouth of a creek where maybe a century ago one of my ancestors tied up his gasboat. It's a place where people like to fish, but on summer weekdays when it's deserted, it's a nice quiet spot to enjoy some sun and listen to birds. It's close to a two-lane highway, but there's no marked path to it. And it's about a mile and a half below a dam, so you can enjoy some towboat activity if you like.

But you have to enjoy it when the river's at normal pool. When the river rises two or three feet, this sandbar goes under water and you can't walk across the creek.

But when the water is down, this is a nice place to skip rocks. I may be getting old, but I still like getting a dozen or more skips from a good, flat rock.

There are dozens of spots like this along the river, but this one is my favorite of the bunch.

Monday, January 16, 2017

M/V Yvonne Conway

I started this morning working on some numbers, then I thought about how a certain graphic would look, then I found this photo from Dec. 4, 2015, and I decided to play around with it.

I really need to get back to my number crunching.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

M/V M.K. McNally

As seen the other day passing Huntington at sunrise.

This is probably my favorite time of day for taking pictures in winter.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Explosion shuts down Ohio River power plant

A coal-fired power plant on the Ohio River upstream of Maysville, Kentucky, has shut down temporarily following an explosion that injured six workers.

As noted in this article from the Maysville newspaper, there has been talk that Killen could be shut down permanently in the near future, and what will happen after the explosion remains to be seen.

EDIT: The explosion was at the J.M. Stuart generating station. Both Stuart and Killen are upstream of Maysville, and both have been listed as candidates for closing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cloudy morning at Big Sandy harbor

This morning I was in the Kenova WV area. The park at the mouth of the Big Sandy River was closed, so I figured I would make a quick jaunt over to Catlettsburg KY to see if I could get any boat pictures. I did get a few.

There was the Marathon boat M/V Cincinnati.

 And some more Marathon boats. I think the two in front are the Catlettsburg and the Marathon, but I can't be sure.

The Michael D.

The Les Grimm tied up over at South Point OH.

And this one whose name I should know but escapes me at the moment.

There were others, but these were the best shots available. I went there looking for a boat with a loaded coal barge, but none were around. It was a decent morning anyway.

Ektachrome returns

I remember the first roll of Ektachrome I shot. It was early 1977, and I loved it. Some of the pictures were taken at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam, and others were taken along Ohio Route 7 in that area. I have several dozen rolls of Ektachrome and Kodachrome slides in my house. Some of them might be fading, but some are still great.

Now Kodak says it is bringing back Ektachrome before the end of this year. I have an old manual film camera that still works. Two, if the Nikon FM2 does not have the light leak that I think it has. Maybe I will try a roll when it comes out.

I'm looking for some scanned photos from that first roll, but they're not on this computer. Here instead is one taken on the West Virginia side of the Gallipolis locks on July 4, 1985. Except for the cropping and the credit line, the photo is pretty much how it scanned, warts and all.

The boat is the Warren, which later ended up on land at the Tri-State Fire Academy here in Huntington. It was used for firefighting training in confined spaces for several years until those fires took their toll on its steel. The Warren was demolished a couple of years ago.

The beach is gone. Three or four years after this was taken, the beach was removed to make way for the new lock canal at what is now officially known as the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. The beach was a popular place for fishing, some of which included overnight camping. It was a nice place to visit.

Will I try Ektacrhome? Maybe not. Once you pay for the camera, pixels are free, and film costs money to buy and develop. Let's see what the pricing is before we commit to anything. But it would be fun to experiment with, for old time's sake if nothing else.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Another record set in towboat building

Florida Marine sends its boats up the Ohio River past Huntington every now and then. According to this article at marinelink.com, Florida Marine took delivery last week of two more boats from Eastern Shipbuiding Group. The new boats are the M/V Capt. Ricky Torres and the M/V Cullen Pasentine.

That makes 65 boats of the same design Eastern Shipbuilding has built for Florida Marine.

Says the article:

This ongoing order for 90’ towboats originally began with a twenty-five (25) vessel contract, starting in 2006 and was successfully completed with on-time deliveries. It has expanded to become the largest single Owner, single Shipbuilder, new construction program with the same class towboat design in United States history.

This and that in the news, 1/6/2017

Here's a guy at Blennerhassett Island who was taking a boat out on the river when it stalled and began drifting in the channel toward a towboat and barges coming his way. So he jumped in the river and swam to shore. He didn't die from hypothermia because ... read the story.

# # #

Meanwhile, here's a piece about a solar-powered camera at the site of old Lock and Dam 35 that's keeping watch on blue-green algae in the river, the kind that turned the river a bright green in the late summer of 2015.

# # #

Part of a riverfront park in Cincinnati is closed because it's slipping into the Ohio River. The slip was caused by a collapsed sewer line, which will be replaced when the river goes down.

# # #

A small refinery at Somerset, Kentucky, has expanded its barge operations to receive more product.

# # #

And DuPont has been ordered to pay $10.5 million in punitive damages to an Ohio man. A federal jury made that determination Wednesday following its verdict last month that C8 from the company's plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, caused his testicular cancer.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mechanical problems at Markland

Will the mechanical problems at Ohio River locks and dams take a vacation anytime soon?

This Notice to Navigation Interests came out today:

Update to Navigation Notice 2016-034. Markland Dam Gate 9 continues to be out of service. Gates 5, 7, & 8 were in the process of a similar repair at the time and have been closed pending further testing. During this time, velocities through the dam during high water periods will be higher than typical for a given dam opening. Mariners are cautioned of the additional draw along the upstream approach of the 1200’ chamber. Use additional care when entering and leaving the upper 1200’ approach.

Corps officials and spokesmen have been saying for a while that machinery at the dams is nearing the end of its projected life. The dams were designed in the 1940s and 1950s, and some locks in the post-World II dams were put into operation in the late 1950s.

So, are these kinds of problems to be expected more as the machinery ages, and if so to what degree?

As editorial writers tend to say, it remains to be seen.

In the news, 1/5/2016

With the new toll bridges open in the Louisville area, businesses are wondering how much frequent trips across them are going to cost. More info is here.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of traffic on one new bridge. Some people wonder if the toll is worth the convenience, which is normal.

# # #

The Paducah Sun has an article on how the navigation lights on the Brookport Bridge, also known as the Irvin Cobb Bridge, are now solar powered. The story is behind a paywall, but it can still be read.

# # #

This news release says the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers are testing a new electronic navigation information system that combines features of existing systems into one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

M/V Leslie M. Neal

It took us a few years and in the end, we had to fight twilight, but this evening Adam and I saw the Crounse towboat Leslie M. Neal in our area.

Now, having seen the Linda Reed, Paula Ruble, Janis R. Brewer, the Jackie Englert and the Leslie M. Neal, that means we've seen all five of the newer Crounse boats. The first two are frequent visitors to our area. The last three, not so much.

The Leslie M. Neal was built in 2010, so it's been a long wait.

For those interested in the details, it was built for Crounse Corp. by Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Florida. It is 140 feet long and 34 feet wide, making it one foot narrow than the typical open hopper barge it pushes. The boat is powered by two GM 8-710 diesel engines generating 4,000 total horsepower.

This evening it was pushing pretty hard against the current. The river was high and rising. It and the M/V Kentucky were generating some strong prop wash even though they might have been going maybe 2 or 2.5 mph at most.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

First river photos of 2017

Yesterday wasn't the greatest day for shooting, but I tried.

First, the AEP Mariner as it came down the river pushing 15 empties.

Then from the Ohio side of the Gallipolis,er, Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, how some debris has accumulated in the piers and the fog.

Finally, the Nell. This was taken from WV Route 2 below Point Pleasant in a difficult place to get good pictures. The road is wedged between some railroad tracks and the river. There is little if any berm to stand on, and there is no place to pull your car over to get a decent shot when one presents itself. In this case, I stopped on the road and kept my eye on the rearview mirros while Adam got some shots from his seat.

In theory, I could have parked the car down the road and walked back up on the railroad tracks, but I could have lost the shot if the Nell moves. Plus I didn't need a form letter from CSX warning of the dangers of trespassing on railroad property. If a train had come by, there would have been little place for me to find safety quickly.

This section of the river is below the mouth of the Kanawha, and it gets so much traffic that its surface is rarely this smooth and reflective, so we got the shot while we could.