Natural gas now fuels electricity generated at UGI’s Hunlock Creek Energy Center
HUNLOCK TWP. — These days, Peter Quattrini gladly talks about his conversion.
The Hunlock Creek Energy Center switched to natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to generate electricity, and, a few months ago, got rid of what remained of the boiler house from when coal was burned at the plant on U.S. Route 11 along the Susquehanna River.
Quattrini, plant manager for UGI Power Generation, led a media tour of the plant Wednesday, showing off the scaled-down facility with much of the equipment concealed in metal structures and behind chain link fences topped with barbed wire. Gone were mountains of ash waste stored on the 136-acres site and in the hulking buildings and smokestacks, all part of the switch by owner UGI Development Co. to a cleaner burning fuel as the federal government tightened emissions standards.
The General Electric logo affixed to an exterior wall marked the location of the two turbines capable of lifting a jet aircraft miles high in the sky, but mounted firmly on the ground and connected to generators to make electricity for distribution onto the national power grid.
“Actually these area the same engines that hang off a (Boeing) 767,” Quattrini said.
The engines, marked units 5 and 6, can each produce 50 megawatts of power, enough for more than 100,000 homes, he said.
Their exhausts get put to good use to produce steam pumped through pipes to spin a 1959 Westinghouse turbine, the last of three units added to the coal-fired plant. With the conversion to natural gas, the turbine was refurbished and can generate 25-32 megawatts of power.
Construction on the original plant commenced in 1924. Work on the modern facility began in 2009, a year after UGI started planning for the fuel switch.
“It came to a point where we had to improve emissions on the coal-fired plant,” Quattrini said.
It would have cost too much to install the equipment to make the plant meet the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions’ standards, so UGI opted to convert to natural gas, added Larry Godlasky, director of government affairs for UGI Energy Services.
Little did it know the effects the Marcellus Shale in the state’s northern tier counties would have on the price of natural gas on the open market and the operation of the Hunlock Creek facility.