NRG Energy plans to build natural gas pipeline, convert its coal-burning Avon Lake power plant


COLUMBUS, Ohio – NRG Energy, Inc. has taken an important step in converting its coal-fired Avon Lake power plant to natural gas in order to meet new pollution standards.

NRG has created its own pipeline company.

And this week state regulatorsapproved the future operation of NRG Ohio Pipeline Co. LLC, which plans to operate one 24-inch or 30-inch pipeline.

The big, high-pressure line would deliver natural gas to the power plant, either from a Dominion East Ohio or a Columbia Gas of Ohio pipeline  located about 20 miles south of Avon Lake.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s approval of the new company as a utility enables it to deliver gas to other commercial customers, as well as the power plant.

Although an exact route has not been selected, the company hopes to run the new line adjacent to public roads. It must still seek approval of the Ohio Power Siting Board.

“We are still developing the route and can’t say specifically where it will be,” David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG Energy, said in an email.

“There are two very wide, preliminary routing corridors that run from south to north. NRG will need to get easements from a number of individual homeowners and businesses for a final route.”

The company hopes to begin construction of the pipeline in the spring or summer of 2015, he said, and to complete the conversion of the plant in May 2016.

The exact cost of the project has not been determined, Gaier said .

Stringent federal rules require most coal-fired power plants to meet new mercury and other toxic metal emission standards by 2014 or 2015 – or shut down.

NRG won approval from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to continue burning coal until the spring of 2015, said Gaier.

The power plant employs about 75 people and is rated to generate up to 753 megawatts of electricity.

NRG Energy is headquartered in Princeton, N.J., and operates about 90 power plants that burn coal, oil or natural gas, four wind turbine farms, and four utility-scale solar power plants. The company co-owns a nuclear power plant in Texas. Total generation is about 47,000 megawatts, enough power for 40 million homes.