MOUNT VERNON – One of the region’s largest companies has opened a $180 million power-generating facility that has halted the use of coal.
The cogeneration (CoGen) plant at SABIC’s Mount Vernon site has been in the making since 2011, but the idea dates back even further – maybe 30 years, said Joe Castrale, senior general manager.
The plant receives natural gas from a 30-mile pipeline was built and under the Ohio River to Robards, in Henderson County, where it connects SABIC to one of Texas Gas Transmission’s largest pipelines in the country.
When the gas reaches SABIC’s CoGen facility, it burns in a device similar to a jet engine and produces two essentials for the plant’s work – electricity and steam.
“As that engine turns, it turns a generator on the back end and that’s what produces the electricity,” Castrale said. “In a plane, all that hot air gets wasted. What we do here is we capture all that hot air, about 1,000 degrees, and we send it through a heat recovery steam generator. It’s a big vessel with tubes that have a water in it. It goes across that and forms steam.”
Previously, SABIC bought all its electricity from Vectren. To produce steam, half of the plant’s boilers used natural gas, and the other half coal.
“Through a lot of different reasons, regulations, whatever it might happen to be, we got to the point that it made all the sense in the world to go down this path,” Castrale said. “It eliminates coal from being burned on our site.”
The CoGen plant will, on average, produce about 80 percent of SABIC Mount Vernon’s required electricity and 70 to 90 percent of its required steam. It is operated remotely, but its completion did not eliminate any employment positions, according to plant officials.
Greenhouse gas emissions from SABIC are expected to fall about 35 percent from 2010 levels because of the CoGen plant, and nonhazardous waste from coal is to drop about 43 percent.
“To our knowledge, it’s only the second unit (the company) has built and the first one they’ve delivered and is in service,’ said Keith Mesker, senior manager of process engineering with SABIC in Mount Vernon.
SABIC, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s top petrochemical companies. The Mount Vernon site, which began operations in 1960, is the company’s largest U.S. manufacturing center, with about 1,100 employees.
The CoGen plant was built with more than 500,000 man-hours from 14 different crafts. More than 5,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured for foundations and over 200 tons of steel and 80 miles of wire and cable.
It’s a reliable, 24/7 power source, Castrale said, and “a greener alternative to what we have had before.”