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Coal Supply Disruption Threatens Operations at North Dakota Plant

News release from the Basin Electric Power Cooperative:
Bismarck, N.D. – Curtailment plans are being formulated at Missouri Basin Power Project’s Laramie River Station in Wheatland, Wyo., because the rail transportation system has not been delivering the fuel required to keep the plant operating at full production. Since May of 2005 deliveries out of the Powder River Basin to all utilities have been highly sporadic.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative is the operator of and part owner of Laramie River Station. Ron Harper, Basin Electric’s CEO and general manager, said “the reduced rail deliveries aren't a result of a lack of supply or ability to produce coal in the Powder River Basin; it’s simply a lack of rail transportation of coal to Laramie River Station. We are concerned about a decline in service and efficiency.”

Maintaining full generation levels at the 1,650 megawatt, three-unit station requires 24,000 tons of coal per day, which is what BNSF Railway is normally scheduled to deliver. Just to match daily consumption, LRS needs the equivalent of one-and-a-half trains per day. (A train consists of about 136 rail cars, each carrying about 120 tons of coal.) In addition, a stockpile is maintained at the plant site, which is used as backup in case of an interruption in rail deliveries. Today, the stockpile contains less than six days of operation at full production.

“In order to conserve our stockpile and maintain at least some production at the station, we are currently determining how to reduce production levels in the event curtailment becomes necessary,” Harper said. “Even though there’s enough demand for all three units to operate at full capacity, we want to conserve coal to be able to perform during a severe cold snap, for example. We are doing everything we can to continue full production, including adding a fourth train set and purchasing coal from mines closer to the plant to reduce transportation cycle times.”

If the stockpile is depleted further, the project will be forced to implement a 20 percent generation curtailment to preclude the possibility of reaching total coal exhaustion, which would shut the entire project down. A total plant shutdown may result in significant economic and reliability impacts to the region.

Laramie River Station is owned by the Missouri Basin Power Project, a consortium of consumer-owned electric utilities. Participants include Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D.; Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Denver, Colo.; Missouri River Energy Services, Sioux Falls, S.D.; the Lincoln Electric System, Lincoln, Neb.; the Heartland Consumers Power District, Madison, S.D.; and the Wyoming Municipal Power Agency, Lusk, Wyo.

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Starvid, Sweden said…

I figure you are all sitting at your computers faintly smiling and thinking "One and a half 136 car trains full of uranium fuel rods do last quite longer than a single day."

Well, so am I. ;)

It seems the god of railroads sends swift retribution to the burners of fossil fuels. ;)

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