Sammis Plant may be part of sale plan by FirstEnergy

WHEELING — Citing weak power prices, FirstEnergy Corp. may sell or close several coal and nuclear plants, including the W.H. Sammis Plant in Jefferson County and the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, within the next two years, officials confirmed Thursday.

As contractors working for Akron-based FirstEnergy continue filling the former R.E. Burger plant site at Dilles Bottom for possible transfer to PTT Global Chemical for construction of a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker, the company is considering ways to exit “competitive markets” in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

“On our earnings call last week, FirstEnergy announced plans to identify how we can thoughtfully yet expeditiously move away from competitive markets over the next 12 to 18 months in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Competitive market conditions continue to deteriorate, with weak power prices, insufficient results from recent capacity auctions and anemic demand forecasts,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said Thursday.

According to Young, FirstEnergy officials rate the coal-fired Sammis plant at producing 1,490 megawatts of power, while employing 341 workers. Earlier this year, FirstEnergy officials confirmed they will retire four old generating units at the Sammis plant. The three larger units the company plans to keep online at Sammis each entered service from 1967 to 1971, with two of the generators each pumping out about 600 megawatts and the other producing 300 megawatts.

The Sammis plant is FirstEnergy’s largest coal-fired power plant in Ohio, and it is so massive the lanes of Route 7 run beneath it. It was an Ohio Edison operation until that company merged with Centerior in 1997 to form FirstEnergy. In 2010, the company spent $1.8 billion to install new emissions control equipment at the plant.

Another coal-fired plant FirstEnergy may sell or close, Young said, is the Pleasants Plant at Willow Island, W.Va., north of Parkersburg. This facility can produce 1,300 megawatts of power with its 179 employees.

“As part of the process, we are beginning to explore a variety of strategic alternatives for plants owned by FirstEnergy subsidiaries operating in the competitive marketplace,” Young said.

“These alternatives include converting generation to a regulated or regulated-like construct, seeking solutions for nuclear units that recognize their environmental benefits, exploring the sale of additional generation assets, or moving forward with additional deactivations.”

Also on the list for possible sale or closure is the 1,815-megawatt Beaver Valley Power Station, which is east of East Liverpool in Shippingport, Pa. The nuclear facility now employs 744 workers.

Other plants FirstEnergy could turn off or unload include those in Springdale Township, Pa.; Guilford Township, Pa.; Uniontown, Pa.; Hunlock Creek, Pa.; Oakwood, Va.; Lorain, Ohio; Oregon, Ohio; Oak Harbor, Ohio; Perry, Ohio; and Warm Springs, Va.

Last year, American Electric Power turned off 5,535 megawatts of coal-fired power across Appalachia, including the 630-megawatt Kammer Plant in Marshall County. Also, AEP plans to transition its coal-fired generator at the Cardinal Plant near Brilliant to run on natural gas no later than 2030.

As for the Burger site, Young said FirstEnergy officials are just waiting for Thailand-based PTT to make a decision on the proposed petrochemical complex, which could include the 130-acre Burger site and some surrounding property in the vicinity of the Ohio River and Route 7. The project would crack ethane drawn from Marcellus and Utica shale wells into ethylene, which can be used to make plastic, textiles and pharmaceuticals.

This summer, the 854-foot-tall smoke stack at the plant split in two as it collapsed to the ground after a series of small explosions. Since then, contractors have worked to prepare the site for new development.

“We do not have any new information regarding the R.E. Burger site,” Young added.

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