Consumers Spends Money To Save

September 12, 2006
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PORT SHELDON TOWNSHIP — Consumers Energy is in the process of reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by about 96 percent at the J.H. Campbell plant and is bringing more than 1,400 workers to the area temporarily to build a $400 million selective catalytic reduction system.

Consumers Energy has worked with area entities such as the sheriff’s and fire departments, the township and The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg to make sure the project, which has both an environmental and economic impact, goes smoothly.

Pamela Blake, membership services manager for the chamber, said the organization has helped the company by providing 1,000 information packets to the contractors and their employees. In addition to visitor information, the packets contain a cottage rental guide and information about area apartments to help with living options.

“A lot of cottages will do winter rentals,” Blake said.

Though the economic impact is yet to be felt, Blake said she believes the influx of people will have a positive effect on the surrounding area.

“Certainly what we’re hoping is that they’ll find us a lovely community that they want to come back and visit,” she said.

Blake said the environmental impact is important, too.

“The project itself is quite an undertaking; obviously it’s an environmental benefit for all of us,” she said.

Nitrogen oxide is released from the plant when coal is burned to heat water and create steam pressure, which turns the turbines that create electricity. As coal is burned, materials such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate ash are released into the atmosphere.

The new selective catalytic reduction system will reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide released by sending it through a catalyst that turns it into water vapor and nitrogen, said Dennis McKee, public affairs director for Consumers Energy.

The system is being added to the largest of the three units at the Campbell plant.

“We want to put it on the biggest plant to have the biggest impact,” McKee said.

The $400 million project is part of a statewide $800 million push to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The project is 80 percent complete and will be operational by the end of summer 2007. The new system is being fit into the current unit, which produces enough electricity for half a million people.

The 1,400 additional workers include welders, boilermakers and construction workers.

McKee said Consumers has to reach an average reduction across the state, so it is over-complying at the Campbell plant in order to even out other plants where the new technology may not be viable. This is the third selective catalytic reduction system the company has added in the past few years. The first two, which are on smaller units, are at the Karn Weadock site near Bay City.

McKee said the plant will now emit .05 pounds per million British thermal units of nitrogen oxide to help meet the .15 pound per million BTU regulations for the entire state.

“Since the Clear Air Act passed in the 1970s, air emissions have gotten cleaner,” he said.

McKee said the new system will not only reduce emissions but will allow the plant to use 100 percent western coal, rather than a percentage of both western and eastern coal. Western coal is less expensive and has less sulfur.

Sometime between December and February, the unit will be turned off to complete the installation, with the other units producing more electricity in the interim. The project is the largest addition Consumers has undertaken.

“This is the largest modification of its kind,” said Jim Pomaranski, executive manager of the project.

With regulations frequently changing, Pomaranski said the biggest challenge has been to stay compliant with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s been kind of a moving target,” Pomaranski said. “Trying to hit a moving target has been a huge challenge.”

Pomaranski said preparation has been the key to making the project both successful and economically viable; several years of planning and construction have gone into the project.

“There’s a lot of money to be saved if you put a lot of thought and planning up front,” he said. “We really believe in a lot of thorough planning.”

Because of extensive planning, the plant has a lower than average cost at $100 per kilowatt hour installed; the average cost is $150 to $175.    

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