Doubling of We Energies Coal Stockpile Approved, Extra Dust Mitigation Required

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the final construction permit this week, allowing the expansion of the coal storage facility at We Energies’ Oak Creek site, but not without some additional requirements designed to reduce fugitive dust emissions from the stockpile.

The Oak Creek site consists of two power-generating facilities, the Elm Road Generating Station (ERGS)—a POWER Top Plant Award winner in 2010—and the Oak Creek Power Plant (OCPP). One of the main goals of its now-approved construction project is to increase the site storage capacity from 45 days to 90 days. To do so, a new storage pile will be added and the total storage area will increase from 15.4 acres to 33.6 acres.

In addition to increasing the storage capacity, We Energies will make several changes to the site’s coal handling system, including the addition of several conveyors and an upgrade to the coal car dumper fabric filter baghouse.

The company cited the following reasons for developing the project:

  • To support a fuel flexibility project at ERGS, allowing higher blends of subbituminous coal.
  • To address challenges with the pace and reliability of rail deliveries, improve on-site storage capacity, and the ability to offload trains in a timely fashion.
  • To mitigate net fuel cost impacts.
  • To support anticipated increases in market demand for the OCPP and ERGS electric generating units.

But the project has not been welcomed with open arms by all nearby residents or the environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin. Increased coal dust and particulate pollution have been a couple of the main reasons mentioned.

“Area residents should not have to cope with reduced air quality and a higher chance of health problems due to a lack of reasonable safety measures,” said Pamela Ritger, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin.

The DNR held public hearings and accepted public comments in August, and according to Clean Wisconsin, the following requirements were added to the permit based on the input received:

  • The site will conduct continuous video monitoring of the coal piles.
  • A wind barrier will be constructed for both coal piles, and We Energies will be expected to evaluate the feasibility of adding more wind barriers.
  • The permitted amount of visible air pollution from the coal piles will be reduced from an opacity standard of 10% down to 7.5%.
  • The use of crusting agents will be required on inactive coal piles.
  • Watering capability for the coal piles to reduce fugitive dust will be improved.

A spokesperson for We Energies told POWER that the company has worked closely with the DNR on provisions to minimize the potential blowing of coal dust to residential areas near the storage area. “We are prepared to comply,” the spokesperson said.

“We knew there were a variety of commonsense solutions available to control coal dust and pollution blowing off coal piles,” said Ritger. “These changes and added controls will have a marked impact on the issue.”

For more on possible stockpile dust control improvement measures, see “Fugitive Dust Mitigation Solutions for Coal Stockpiles” in the September issue of POWER.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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