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More NatGas-Fired Power Plants Planned For Michigan, West Virginia

More natural gas-fired power plants are planned for the Appalachian and Great Lakes regions, adding to a growing list of new electricity sources that would utilize Marcellus and Utica shale supplies.

The Milwaukee-based utility WEC Energy Group Inc. said Monday that it would construct new natural gas plants on Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of a deal to supply electricity to an iron-ore mine in the area. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., which operates the Tilden mine near Marquette, MI, signed a 20-year agreement with WEC to supply the electricity for its operations there.

The facilities would use internal combustion engines to generate 170 MW of power. The $255 million project would also allow a coal plant on Lake Superior to be retired by 2020. If the project is approved by state regulators, WEC aims to have the plants constructed by 2019. It isn't clear, however, who would supply the facilities with natural gas.

In West Virginia, though, Energy Solutions Consortium LLC, which announced plans to build a 565 MW natural gas-fired plant in Marshall County in 2014, is planning to construct another two in a state that has been slow to adopt natural gas-fired power, despite its role as a shale gas producer (see Daily GPIApril 22, 2014).

The company plans to construct a 580 MW natural gas plant in Harrison County and another 750 MW facility in Brooke County. Both of those plants would be close to Marcellus and Utica shale production and utilize gas from those wells. Construction is expected to start in the coming months on the Moundsville Power plant in Marshall County, with service scheduled for 2019. Both the Harrison and Brooke counties projects are expected to break ground by 2018, but they must be approved by the state first.

Dozens of natural gas-fired power plants have been approved in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia since 2012 as shale production has increased across the region (see Daily GPIMay 13). Most of those facilities have been approved in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while the Moundsville facility has been the only plant approved in West Virginia, according to state officials.

Increasing natural gas production, particularly from shale plays in the Northeast and Southwest, is expected to boost gas-fired power capacity across the country in the coming years, especially in some Mid-Atlantic states, Texas and Florida, according to the Energy Information Administration (see Daily GPIMay 19). News of more plants in Appalachia and the Great Lakes region comes after the EIA said last month that natural gas-fired power generation is expected to set a record this year by providing 3.8 million megawatt hours per day, or 4% more than last year (see Daily GPIJuly 14). Power demand records have already been set across parts of the country this summer due to high temperatures, with more expected this month (see Daily GPI,Aug. 11).

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