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Demolition ends, excavation begins as coal-to-gas repowering project proceeds in Mississippi

Burns & McDonnell has completed demolition work at a Mississippi coal-fired power plant which is being converted to natural gas generation three years from now.

The repowering project at 42-year-old R.D. Morrow Sr. Generating Station began in 2018. Once fully converted, the combined cycle gas turbine—connected with an existing steam turbine—will generate up to 550 MW of electricity by 2023.

Owner of the Purvis, Miss., plant, Cooperative Energy, announced plans for the repowering due to a impending power deficit within the MidContinent Independent System Operator market. Cooperative considered a new-build, green-field power plant project, but decided to partner with Kansas City, Mo.-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm Burns & McDonnel to repower one of its two coal-fired plants.

 “For more than 40 years, Plant Morrow has provided safe, reliable and affordable electricity to help power thousands of homes and businesses throughout Mississippi,” says Jeff Bowman, president and CEO of Cooperative Energy. “As we progress toward a new era of power generation, the shift to lower-cost natural gas brings cleaner, more efficient combined-cycle technology.”

While repowering has grown increasingly common, a heat recovery repowering is unique in that it adds a natural gas combustion turbine within the existing infrastructure, the companies said.

“By using a heat recovery repower approach, the reuse of existing equipment and infrastructure will result in notable cost savings for both the cooperative and its customers throughout the region,” says Craig Demmel, power generation project manager at Burns & McDonnell. “The resulting combined-cycle plant will add nearly 350 MW of generation to a single unit — three times more unit generation capacity than previously available. The plant’s resolute reputation for reliability and service will continue well into the future with natural gas as its new fuel source.”

To date, project teams have worked more than 450,000 hours with zero safety incidents — even through the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Burns & McDonnell has adapted safety and health practices onsite to include daily temperature checks and staggered scheduling to maintain social distancing.

See PE stories on how power industry has handled COVID-19 challenges

Now that demolition is complete, crews have moved on to excavation, piling and execution of the project’s foundation package. The repowered unit is expected to begin firing in summer 2022 and go commercial by March 2023.