Thursday, March 1, 2018

Rockport's future

Okay, fans of Appalachian coal and coal barges. Here’s another doomsday scenario to be thinking about.

The Rockport power plant in Indiana, down near Evansville (or up if you’re in Metropolis), is the largest consumer of coal along the Ohio River. It’s a fairly young power plant as far as coal burners go. A spokesperson for American Electric Power says the plant will switch from a mix that is now heavily dependent on Powder River Basin coal to one that is even heavier on PRB.

What I have not yet found is an update to this article that goes into detail about the future of Rockport given environmental requirements. AEP operates Rockport, but it does not own the plant. It leases it from another company. Does AEP want to invest $1 billion in a plant it does not own when it also wants to move as far away from coal as it can?

More details about the scrubber situation can be found here.

From what I found on the Energy Information Administration website, Rockport generated 10.92 million megawatts of power last year. That was down from its recent high of 20.36 million in 2008. It was also down from 11.56 million in 2016. The long-term trend there has been downward. That’s not surprising given what’s gone on in the generating industry as a whole.

Less generation means less coal consumed, of course. Rockport is unusual among AEP’s plants in the Ohio Valley in that it burns mainly subbituminous, or PRB, coal as opposed to bituminous coal, which is produced in Appalachia and in the Illinois Basin.

Last year Rockport burned 775,402 tons of bituminous coal and 5,322,657 tons of subbituminous coal, according to the EIA. In 2008, it burned 1,527,022 tons of bituminous and 9,435,132 tons of subbituminous. Again, the trend line is down.