FirstEnergy Corp. today announced it would permanently shut down units 4 and 5 at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, by Dec. 31, abandoning plans to repower the coal units with biomass. The Akron-based company cited a significant plunge in market prices of electricity, saying that they “no longer support a repowered Burger Plant.” 

The Burger Plant units 4 and 5 were included as part of a 2005 consent decree settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and three northeastern states—Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York—to the company’s New Source Review case involved with a separate plant in Stratton, Ohio, the 2,200-MW W.H Sammis generating station. Under the consent decree, FirstEnergy was forced to repower, scrub, or shut down the units as part of an overall compliance plan to reduce system-wide emissions of sulfur dioxide.

FirstEnergy announced in early 2009 that it would likely repower the units using a closed-loop system, burning biomass derived from an energy crop—corn stalks, wheat, or grass—grown specifically for use as a fuel source to produce 312 MW (the units’ current capacity). The $200 million repowering project was slated for completion by 2013.

“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to overcome the challenges of the difficult economy to cost-effectively repower the Burger Plant to burn biomass,” Gary R. Leidich, executive vice president and president of FirstEnergy Generation said today. “We are disappointed that this groundbreaking project will not be realized, particularly because plant employees worked with such spirit and determination to find a way to keep the units operating.”

The 79 Burger Plant employees are expected to either continue at the Burger Plant during the shut-down process or be temporarily reassigned to other FirstEnergy facilities, including the W.H. Sammis Plant.

As part of the original 2005 consent decree, the company today also announced it would complete a $1.8 billion environmental retrofit of the Sammis plant by the end of this year. The retrofit is designed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 95% at the plant and nitrogen oxides emissions by 90% at its two largest units.

Sources: POWERnews, POWER, FirstEnergy