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A 185-MW unit at Owensboro Municipal Utilities' Elmer Smith power plant is expected to be back online by the end of this week after experiencing a "burn through" Monday morning, according to Jim Roberts, fuels and byproducts manager for the western Kentucky muni.

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Unit 1, a circulating fluidized bed unit, is the smaller of Smith's two coal units. The other, 240-MW Unit 2, has continued to operate through what largely has been a cold start to the new year in Owensboro.

Unit 1 was just returned to service in early December after it was idled for economic reasons for most of the fall.

The recent cold weather has helped to reduce OMU's once-bulging coal inventory to 42 days.

"We had 14 days of good burn at the end of December and the first of January, then we had the burn through on Unit 1," Roberts observed.

With Unit 1 running again, "we're going to make a good dent [in the stockpile] for the rest of January."

Ice, snow and more cold weather are forecast for the Owensboro area starting Friday. If everything falls into place -- a continued cold winter followed by an equally hot summer -- the muni plans later this year to lift a nearly two-year force majeure with its five coal suppliers, Roberts said.

OMU has been taking only about 80,000 st/month from its suppliers: Peabody Energy, Armstrong Coal, KenAmerican Resources, Western Kentucky Minerals and Sun Energy. Without the force majeure, it would be accepting 110,000-115,000 st/month.

OMU's contracts with Peabody, Armstrong and KenAmerican extend through 2018, while contracts with Western Kentucky Minerals and Sun Energy continue through 2019.

--Bob Matyi,

--Edited by Derek Sands,