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PJM finds no reliability impact from closure of FirstEnergy coal plant

The regional grid operator PJM Interconnection found no reliability issues from shutting FirstEnergy Corp.'s 1,300-MW Pleasants coal plant in January 2019. Meanwhile, the utility continues to look for a buyer for the West Virginia plant.

"FirstEnergy plans to sell or deactivate the plant by January 1, 2019, and will continue normal operations in the meantime. There have been no staffing reductions," FirstEnergy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton said in a March 22 email. PJM on March 20 updated its website with a completed reliability analysis finding no impacts to the grid from shutting the plant, which employs about 190 people.

The plant's two steam units, each 684 MW, burn a mix of Northern Appalachian coal, refined coal and natural gas. On Feb. 16, FirstEnergy's unregulated generation subsidiary Allegheny Energy Supply Co. announced plans to deactivate or sell the plant after a failed attempt to transfer the unit to its regulated subsidiary Monongahela Power Co., which is projected to face a capacity shortfall in the next 10 years. In January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the transfer in part because the transaction was a based on a request for proposal which competitive suppliers argued was biased toward buying the power plant.

In January, the West Virginia Public Service Commission approved the sale of the plant between FirstEnergy's subsidiaries but imposed significant conditions that ultimately led FirstEnergy to call off the transfer.

Pleasants is located in Willow Island, W.Va., and generated about 7.8 million MWh in 2017, higher than its 2016 generation of roughly 6.9 million MWh, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Units 1 and 2 came on line in 1979 and 1980, respectively. When the station was built, it was equipped with scrubbers, which can control for common power plant air pollutants, sulfur dioxide and mercury. The station is also equipped with selective catalytic reduction, a stringent form of controls, to control for nitrogen oxides, or NOx, which can react to form ozone and acid rain.

The plant purchased coal in 2017 from Murray Energy Corp.'s Marshall County mine and Alliance Resource Partners LP's Tunnel Ridge mines in West Virginia, among other sources, according to fuel contract details from S&P Global Market Intelligence.