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Luminant to retire another natural gas-fired plant in ERCOT

Highlights

Second gas plant retirement this week

Coleto Creek coal plant to shut by 2027

Houston — Luminant will decommission and retire the 69-MW, natural gas-fired Wharton County Generation plant, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has said. It is the second fossil-fuel plant to be announced for retirement in Texas in as many days.

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ERCOT's Notice of Suspension of Operations, issued Dec. 1, said "the generation resource ceased operations due to a forced outage and was decommissioned and retired permanently as of Nov. 30."

S&P Global Market Intelligence's power plant database identifies this plant as the Newgulf CT, with 69 MW of summer capacity and 84 MW of winter capacity. The facility's 2019 capacity factor was less than 0.9%, and Market Intelligence estimates its operating and maintenance expense at more than $149/MWh.

Under ERCOT rules, the grid operator is not required to submit the retirement of this relatively small plant, also known as the Texas Gulf Sulphur plant, to the reliability-must-run process, through which the grid operator determines whether the facility is needed to maintain transmission reliability.

The RMR process can result in ERCOT paying for a generator to remain in service while other methods are arranged to maintain reliability.

On Nov. 30, Luminant announced plans to retire on April 29 its 235-MW, gas-fired Trinidad Power Plant, about 70 miles southeast of Dallas. That plant had a capacity factor in 2019 of less than 3.2%, and its estimated O&M cost was almost $118/MWh.

Coleto Creek coal plant

Also, Luminant's 648-MW Coleto Creek coal plant is to close in Goliad County, southwest of Houston, by 2027, according to a Dec. 1 report in the Victoria Advocate newspaper, citing a memo filed by Vistra with Goliad County officials.

Acquired in the April 2018 Dynegy acquisiton, the Coleto Creek plant's 2019 capacity factor was almost 57%, and its O&M costs were about $35.35/MWh, according to the Market Intelligence power plant database.

However, in order to comply with recently finalized coal ash and toxic mineral disposal rules, Luminant would have had to spend tens of millions of dollars, according to the Victoria Advocate, which the memo said "cannot be justified based on the underlying economics of the plant and the uncertainty of more stringent regulations under a new presidential administration."