Montana engine-genset project taps Burns & McDonnell for EPC lead

reciprocating Cat engines
Photo courtesy of Caterpillar

High Plains utility NorthWestern Energy is building a 175-MW natural gas-fired power station to support its renewables growth and provide resiliency for the system.

NorthWestern selected Kansas City, Mo.-based Burns & McDonnell to lead the engineering, procurement and construction work on the Laurel Generation Station project in Montana. Laurel will be powered by 18 reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) generating the electricity.

The engines are supplied by Caterpillar (pictured). The units can ramp up quickly with multiple starts and stops daily, and can provide on-demand power, flexible capacity, baseload power and regulation services with reduced emissions.

Burns & McDonnell will self-perform the construction of the facility and the installation of the generator sets. AZCO, part of the Burns & McDonnell family of companies, will perform the mechanical and electrical work.

“We’re proud to be part of this 175-MW RICE project with NorthWestern Energy,” says Brian Elwell, EPC project director for the reciprocating engine business unit at Burns & McDonnell. “The flexibility and on-demand power will add reliability as NorthWestern Energy integrates additional renewable energy into its generation portfolio. We are pleased to be selected for a project from what was a very competitive solicitation process.”

The added capacity will address some of NorthWestern Energy’s capacity deficit in its portfolio serving Montana customers, providing reliability for customers while decreasing risks associated with market volatility and the potential lack of power availability. Reliability concerns are increasing, especially during extreme weather conditions, as more regional coal plants are closing and additional solar and wind generation are added to the grid. 

“This flexible capacity resource, selected through a competitive process, is capable of generating energy for long durations when needed, including multiple days of severe weather, times of high-energy demand and when market prices are high,” said NorthWestern Energy Vice President Energy Supply and Montana Government Relations John Hines. “It is the best resource for our Montana customers at a cost-effective price.”

Caterpillar’s Cat G20CM34 generator sets can provide the quick startup and ramp-down flexibility needed in tandem with intermittent renewables.

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas to about 750,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

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