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Energy Efficiency

227-MW Coal Plant Could Be Converted to Natural Gas

Bremo Power Station is the oldest coal-based power plant managed by Dominion Virginia Power. The original units began service in 1931 at the James River site near Bremo Bluff, Virginia. These older units were retired in 1972, and new ones were added, which are still in operation today. Now, the plant faces the new challenge of reducing air pollution. Dominion is trying to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, mercury, and sulfur dioxide by 75% to 85% by 2015.


It filed an application with Virginia State Corporation Commission to convert the Bremo coal plant to run on natural gas. If approved, Dominion would stop using coal at Bremo in the Fall of 2013. If all goes according to plan, Bremo could be converted to natural gas by the Spring of 2014.

According to the US EPA, burning natural gas instead of coal produces far less air pollution: “Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant.”

Burning natural gas in combustion turbines also uses less water than burning coal. For example, a coal power plant that was shut down in Georgia used an estimated 35-45 million gallons of water daily.

In its press release, Dominion also said the conversion will save customers money, because the process is cheaper than building new plants and continuing to burn coal.

According to SourceWatch, the public health impact of fine particle air pollution from Bremo was substantial. 23 deaths per year, 37 heart attacks, 390 asthma attacks, and a number of other health problems are connected to the air pollution generated by it. Fine particle air pollution is a combination of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, and soot.

Dominion has said five of its other coal-burning plants will be converted or shut down. Several units will be converted to biomass.

 Image Credit: USGS, Public Domain

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