LG&E and KU make history with Kentucky’s first natural gas combined-cycle unit.
In early July 2015, LG&E and KU announced that Kentucky’s first natural gas combined cycle generating unit – known as Cane Run 7 or CR7 – became commercially available. It took more than two and a half years and over two million construction hours to construct the NGCC, which now provides customers with another source of safe, reliable energy.
The unit marked the first-of-its-kind in the Commonwealth, making the changeover historic for both the company and the state of Kentucky.
The planning, permitting, construction and testing of this facility were years in the making. Company officials expressed excitement over reaching the point of commercial operation. Not only is CR7 significant for the state of Kentucky, but it is also a significant part of LG&E and KU Energy’s ongoing efforts to look down the road and, with approval from the Kentucky Public Service Commission, put resources in place that allow the company to meet the future energy needs of our customers and evolve with our ever-changing industry."
Thoughtful spending, which minimized budgeted costs and lower consumption of natural gas than projected during the unit’s testing phase will allowed the company to achieve an estimated $18 million reduction in costs from the previous project forecast of $563 million.
CR7’s commercial operation marked the end of a remarkable construction period that saw more than 600 construction employees working on the project at its peak; a recordable incident rate of 0.37, which is one-tenth the average for industrial construction companies; and zero lost-time incidents.
The NGCC power plant first generates electricity through two gas turbines, and uses the exhaust heat from those units to generate steam and produce additional electricity using a steam turbine.
The single NGCC unit replaces the bulk of the 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation as the company retires 13 percent of its energy production from coal-fired units. LG&E and KU announced the retirement plans in 2011 as the result of stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates, which, after a thorough analysis of available options, made building the NGCC unit the most economical option to pursue.
With CR7 fully operational and serving customers, the company continues to execute closure plans for Cane Run's coal-fired operations. Cane Run Unit 6 was retired at the end of March, and Units 4 and 5 were retired shortly after CR7 went into operation. The plans include capping and closing the facility's special waste landfill and ash pond, which should be completed in 2016.
The transition from coal to natural gas brings an end to coal-fired generation at Cane Run that spanned more than six decades and pioneered award-winning, environmental technology for the utility industry. The NGCC also means greater efficiency in power production and further reduction of emissions.
With these environmental efforts and CR7’s commercial operation, the company continues to produce energy cleaner than ever before — at Cane Run alone, reducing particulate emissions by more than half; sulfur dioxide emissions by 99 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 82 percent.
Innovative and cost-effective power generation
Cane Run Generating Station was the answer to Louisville’s electricity needs during the dynamic decade of the 1950s. Construction of this new coal-fired plant was started in 1952 to help meet the demand for electricity by industries that located in this area during and after the Second World War.
Cane Run began operation in November 1954, and by 1969 operated a total of six units. The new units were added in 1956, 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1969, increasing the total generating capacity to 943 megawatts.
Units 1, 2 and 3 were retired by 1987. Cane Run Unit 6 was retired in March of 2015, and Units 4 and 5 were retired shortly after CR7 went into operation.
At one time, the primary fuel for the Cane Run plant was high-sulfur coal shipped by rail from western Kentucky and southern Indiana. The plant burned about 1.5 million tons annually. The station’s environmental controls included an electrostatic precipitator, low-NOx burners, and a wet lime scrubber.
July 1979 — President Jimmy Carter visits Cane Run
LG&E pioneered SO2 removal technology, and helped develop and install one of the nation’s first SO2 scrubbers in 1973. Scrubbers are environmental controls that remove SO2 from gases produced by burning coal. LG&E received coveted awards and was recognized nationally and internationally for its efforts in the use of scrubbers. In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter visited Cane Run to learn about the operation of a coal-fired plant and see LG&E’s scrubbers in action.
Carter advocated the use of coal in ways that would not be harmful to the environment, and he specifically chose to visit an LG&E plant because of the company’s reputation for being a leader in the development and use of scrubbers. The presidential visit was a proud moment for Cane Run Station and LG&E. Many of the employees who were present then are still with the company today.