After two years of review, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) last week approved a final air permit for the Southwest Electric Power Co.’s (SWEPCO) John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant. With the permit, construction on the 600-MW coal-fired facility—one of the first U.S. coal plants to use ultrasupercritical technology—will begin immediately in Fulton, Ark., the American Electric Power subsidiary said.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Public Service Commission, and the Public Utility Commission of Texas have all approved SWEPCO’s request to build the Turk Plant. The ADEQ permit, tentatively approved by the department’s air division earlier this year, was delayed by two public hearings and two separate public comment periods, during which hundreds of interested parties offered comments on the proposed permit, the regulatory agency said.

Construction of the $1.5 billion facility is expected take about 48 months. Since early 2008, workers have been performing site development work and receiving equipment and materials at the plant’s location between Fulton and McNab, Ark. The plant is now expected to be operational by 2012, SWEPCO said.

The air permit application regulates the main steam generating unit, which consists of an ultrasupercritical pulverized coal boiler fueled by subbituminous low-sulfur coal and natural gas. The boiler will power a single steam turbine designed for baseload operation with a nominal net power output of 600 MW.

Ultrasupercritical technology operates at higher temperatures to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Though ultrasupercritical plants are in service in Europe and Asia, Turk will be one of the first plants with these advanced steam temperatures (typically above 1,100F) to go into commercial operation in the U.S.

The approved air permit also limits the plant’s emissions of sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. But it does not contain limits for carbon dioxide, as the gas is not currently subject to emission limits under the federal or state regulations.

“It is quite possible CO2 emission standards will be adopted at the federal level and in Arkansas as well in a few years,” ADEQ Director Teresa Marks noted. “The ADEQ and the operators of all permitted coal-fired electric plants in the state—as well as a variety of other industrial and commercial operations with significant CO2 emissions—are aware of this possibility and are already considering options to address the issue of CO2 emissions as quickly as possible once standards are in place.”

The emission control technology being installed will enable the Turk Plant to meet emission limits that are among the most stringent ever permitted for a pulverized coal unit, SWEPCO said. The facility’s design also includes a 20-acre area for the inclusion of carbon dioxide capture equipment.

The baseload coal-fueled Turk Plant is part of SWEPCO’s plans, previously announced in 2006, to construct facilities to meet the short-term peaking, intermediate, and long-term energy needs of its customers. The company has completed the 340-MW Harry D. Mattison natural gas–fueled peaking plant at Tontitown in Northwest Ark. SWEPCO is also building the 500-MW combined-cycle natural gas–fueled J. Lamar Stall Unit for intermediate load needs at its existing Arsenal Hill Power Plant in Shreveport, La.

Arkansas has six permitted coal-fired electric generating units: two near Redfield in Jefferson County, two near Batesville in Independence County, one near Gentry in Benton County, and one near Osceola in Mississippi County.

In a related story, coal gasification project developer Future Fuels LLC and the Immersive Media Corp. (IMC), a Canadian advanced digital video imaging company, last week announced they would join forces to develop an integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) project in Schuylkill County, Pa.

Through the a joint venture, Future Fuels, the companies said they are looking to set up the facility near a local mine, although a location was not disclosed. In a joint statement, they announced that the projects has local support, and that they anticipate the project could alleviate power costs in Pennsylvania, a state whose rate cap system is set to expire.

IMC admitted in the statement that the Future Power joint venture is a departure from the company’s core business, but it “represents an opportunity for IMC to make the optimal use of its cash resources that are not immediately required for its core business.” The Calgary-based company will provide a “strategic investment” of $5 million and “ensure adequate resources are available to successfully develop this project.”

Sources: SWEPCO, ADEQ, Future Fuels LLC