By Mark Gutglueck
(March 3) The Argus coal burning electrical plant in Trona has ceased operating and is being decommissioned.
Currently owned by the ACE Cogeneration Company, which is owned by a partnership composed of ArcLight Capital Partners, DCO Energy, and Northern Star Generation, the Trona plant was the last coal burning electrical plant in California.
Known as the Argus Cogeneration Expansion (ACE) it is a coal-fired circulating fluidized bed power plant located on the northwest side of Searles Lake in Trona at the extreme northwest corner of San Bernardino County.
Originally the project was permitted and constructed by the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation, which filed for permission to build the plant with the California Energy Commission on January 29, 1986, seeking a special dispensation to utilize circulating fluidized bed (CFB) combustion in the design. Coal fired circulating fluidized bed systems had not been commercially demonstrated in California at that time, and Public Resources Code section 25540.6(a)(5) was used to allow ACE to be exempt from a demand conformance finding so that the CFB technology, air pollution reduction techniques, alternate solid fuels, and their operational and economic performance characteristics could be ascertained. Proving out of the design, it was thought, might accelerate the deployment in California of large coal facilities that could meet California’s stringent air emission standards. The cogeneration plant was intended and eventually did produce steam for use by the Kerr McGee Chemical Corporation’s Argus chemical production plant near Trona. The plant also generated 96 megawatts of electricity for sale to Southern California Edison.
The project was permitted by the California Energy Commission (CEC) on January 8, 1988 and began commercial operation in January 1991. Over the years the plant was owned and operated by Kerr McGee, Searles Valley Minerals, Constellation Energy, Nirma – an Indian multinational chemicals and minerals corporation, and most recently ARCLight Capital, DCO and Northern Star.
ACE Cogeneration Company’s existing Power Purchase Agreement with SCE will expire in November 2015.Under California’s greenhouse gas emissions requirements, the project will no longer be economically viable using coal as a fuel once the power purchase agreement expires.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the SCE service territory, ACE Cogeneration Company signed an agreement with SCE to terminate operation of the ACE project in December 2014. The plant ceased operations as of October 2, 2014 and has been placed in an outage condition.
The ACE Cogeneration Company has formulated a decommissioning plan that was submitted to the California Energy Commission. On November 24, 2014, ACE Cogeneration Company reached an agreement to transfer the ground lease for the ACE site and sell some of the equipment and sructures, as well as the property occupied by the ash landfill, to Sabco Inc., a California corporation.
In compliance with the decommissioning plan, the power plant and other facilities will be demolished and removed and the license terminated.
While ACE Cogeneration Company intends to sell the landfill site, lease, and related facilities, ACE Cogeneration Company will continue to hold the CEC license and be responsible for
compliance with the CEC’s conditions of certification until decommissioning is completed and ACE Cogeneration Company surrenders the license to the California Energy Commission. ACE Cogeneration Company will be responsible for implementing the decommissioning plan and complying with any conditions required by the California Energy Commission until the decommissioning is completed and the license is surrendered.
Based on the intended future use of the site, Sabco, Inc. will obtain any required land use and environmental permits from the appropriate local or state agencies.
In a typical year, the plant had 987,241 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 110 of sulfur dioxide emissions.
By Mark Gutglueck