EDWARDSPORT — Extensive testing has been under way at the newly constructed Duke Energy plant in Edwardsport and, with the next phase of testing, Daviess County residents may notice some unusual sights and sounds.
According to Duke Energy spokesperson Angeline Protogere, the plant was built to produce electricity by gasifying coal, but it also can use natural gas to generate electricity when necessary. She said the plant has successfully produced electricity using natural gas, and now the coal-gasification equipment is being tested.
“Once the coal is gasified, many of the pollutants are removed and a cleaner gas is burned to produce power,” Protogere explained.
The gasification process uses state-of-the-art technology to convert coal into “synthesis gas,” which is sent to gas turbines and burned to make electricity. If the synthesis gas doesn’t meet certain standards, it’s diverted to a “gas flare tower,” where it’s ignited and safely burned off. The gas flare tower also will be used during each startup and shutdown of the plant, which can happen randomly at any time of day or night.
“Whenever the plant is started or shut down, the gas needs to be flared and burned,” Protogere said.
A Duke Energy press release described a gas flare as bright and somewhat loud. It normally will last only as long as it takes to shut down the coal gasification process — about 30 minutes. Depending on the vantage point, Protogere said, gas flares may be noticeable from as far away as Plainville.
“I want to emphasize that whenever the gas flare is activated, it does not indicate any emergency at the plant,” said Edwardsport Plant Manager Jack Stultz. “It is a normal part of plant operations. Because the gas flare may need to be activated quickly, we won’t be able to provide advance notice to local residents. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience.”
There will be gas flare events in the next several months during testing and startup, according to the press release. The gas flare also will be used once regular commercial service starts, but not as frequently as during testing.
Last week there also was a test of the emergency notification system for residents near the plant. The system is used to alert county residents about emergencies, such as weather-related situations, Protogere said, but also will be used in the unlikely event there’s an emergency at the plant. To enroll in the emergency notification system, Daviess County residents can go to www.washingtonin.us, and Knox County residents can go to www.knoxcounty.in.gov. Both land lines and cell phones can be registered.
The plant is slated to begin producing energy commercially next year, but no specific date has been set, according to Protogere. It’s the first major, new, coal-fired power plant built in Indiana in more than two decades, according to the news release, and is a key part of the effort to modernize the state’s aging electric system to comply with federal environmental regulations while still using abundant local coal resources.
Duke Energy provides electricity to about 790,000 customers.
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