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Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:35AM - 5369 Views

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MATT HUGHES

mhughes@timesleader.com
A private energy company is seeking to build two new natural gas power plants in the burgeoning gas-fields of Northeastern Pennsylvania.





Vienna, Va.-based Moxie Energy plans to build new combustion-turbine plants, each capable of providing power to 750,000 homes, in Asylum Township, Bradford County, and Clinton Township, Lycoming County.
“It’s the ability to get part of the energy out of the region over the wires instead of through the pipes (that attracted the company to the area),” Moxie Energy President Aaron Samson said.
Both areas are surrounded by some of the most active and productive Marcellus Shale gas fields in the state. Between January 2009 and May 2011, there were 657 wells drilled and 1,556 drilling permits issued in Bradford County and 228 wells drilled and 492 drilling permits issued in Lycoming County, according to the state .
Samson estimated there have been 50 gas wells drilled within five miles of the Bradford County plant site outside Towanda, and that gas is so plentiful in the region that the plants will be built without diesel-fired backup generators, a feature gas plants use to operate when natural gas is unavailable.
The retirement of aging and more-heavily polluting coal-fired power plants around the country has also created demand for new sources of power, he added.
Another company, American Electric Power, recently announced it will retire coal plants producing 6,000 megawatts of power, almost four times the projected output of the two plants combined, by the end of 2014, he said.
Mirror images
Samson said the plants will be mirror images of each other and each will produce about 800 megawatts of electricity. Each will consist of two gas-fired combustion turbine generators and two heat-recovery steam generators, which will produce steam from hot exhaust gasses and direct it to two steam turbines.
The plants also will be equipped with air-cooled condensers, which collect steam and return it to the system as water. These units will keep the plants’ daily water consumption in line with other industrial uses and eliminate the need for the plants to withdraw water from the Susquehanna River or other bodies of water.
Samson said Moxie Energy decided to include the units, though expensive, in part because of the controversy and regulatory uncertainty surrounding natural gas drilling and water. Eliminating surface water withdrawals will also speed the regulatory permitting process, he said.
Natural gas would be delivered to the plants in transmission lines, which would likely be built by the companies producing the gas that powers the plants, and electricity would be delivered to the multistate PJM Interconnection transmission grid via existing high voltage transmission lines adjacent to the two planned plant sites.
Power produced at the plants would be delivered via local utilities first, then to utilities further away.
Groundbreaking in 2012
The company hopes to break ground on the Bradford County plant, dubbed the Moxie Liberty Generation Plant, in late 2012 and on the Lycoming County plant, dubbed the Moxie Patriot Generation Plant, in early 2013.
Each is expected to take about 30 months and cost as much as $800 million to build. Samson said the company has completed pre-application engineering surveys and is now beginning the regulatory permitting process.
Each plant will also create 25 to 30 permanent technical operations jobs, adding value to the community even after the current drilling boom ends, Samson said.
“When the drilling boom’s over, whenever it will be over, in 10 years or 15 years, it’s nice to have long term big capital investment to come with that, long term stability,” he said.
Moxie Energy has been in business for more than 20 years, Samson said, and has constructed other natural gas and co-generation plants, as well as wind farms, biomass power plants and liquid natural gas storage and transmission facilities in North and South America.
Samson said both communities have been receptive to his company’s plans, though he is sure the plants will eventually attract some opposition from area residents.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing wind-powered or biomass technology or natural gas, they’re all the cleanest and the greenest, but as soon as you get into somebody’s neighborhood it doesn’t work,” he said. “They’ll still be plenty of naysayers I’m sure, but so far it’s been very positive.”
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