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Beaver power plant weighs shift to gas

A small coal-fired power plant in Beaver County may give natural gas a spin before its owner decides whether to shut it down in 2017.

After losing the plant's only electric customer last year, Virginia-based AES Corp. says it's looking at all options for the 125-megawatt cogeneration plant in Potter, but company spokesman Rich Bulger said no "serious discussions" about switching to gas have taken place.

A number of coal-powered plants have explored the possibility of shifting to natural gas to take advantage of its relatively low price and cleaner emissions, though few have made the switch.

In April, AES asked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for permission to install and operate burner inserts in three boilers that would allow AES Beaver Valley to burn gas in addition to, or instead of, coal. The state is poised to issue the permit in early February.

That request came one month before a capacity auction hosted by PJM Interconnection Inc, the Valley Forge, Pa.-based grid operator for Pennsylvania and 12 other states, threw a wrench in AES's plans.

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