Report examines natural gas power plant variables

Published on January 15, 2019 by Douglas Clark

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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS) recently reported that natural gas power plant operations in New England and New York vary in certain situations, such as cold weather.

The assessment determined weather plays a significant role in electricity and natural gas demand. During times when natural gas supply is constrained, particularly during the winter, some plants are forced to reduce their output, or shut down entirely, as individual fuel sources become unavailable.

Power plants possessing dual-fuel capability can switch between fuels in specific situations. Dual-fuel capability of natural gas-fired generators in the New England and New York regions has proven critically important for maintaining grid reliability, particularly during cold weather events that create increased demand for both natural gas and electricity.

The CEMS cited the Dec. 28, 2017, to Jan. 8, 2018, bomb cyclone event as a means of highlighting the value of dual-fuel capability when unusually cold weather created additional demand for natural gas for heating while reducing the availability of the fuel for electricity generation.

During the bomb cyclone event, officials said several dual-fuel capable generators switched from natural gas to petroleum to continue generating electricity. The process of reviewing a plant’s operating profile over time can reveal how it reacts to events that affect electric reliability.