Picway Power Plant

Industrial / Ohio

The Picway Power Plant is a demolished American Electric Power coal power plant in Lockbourne, Ohio. It is misnamed after the county it resides in, Pickaway.


History

The Picway Power Plant was constructed by Columbus Railway Power & Light Company (CRP&L) and began operations with 60 MW split between two units on October 24, 1926. 1

CRP&L, formed as a holding company in 1903, acquired the Columbus Railway interurban and electric utility Columbus Edison. 16 CRP&L because a subsidiary of United Light & Power Company in 1924 and was renamed to Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company in 1937 to reflect its focus on electric power generation instead of interurban service.

Picway was enlarged with a new 30 MW unit in 1943. 1 It was originally installed in March 1942 but was not put into operation initially because of a shortage of materials to finish the project owing to World War II. A fourth 30 MW unit was put into operation in 1949 1 at the cost of $5 million. 12

Unit 3 caught fire at 1:59 PM on June 22, 1951, reducing Columbus & Southern Ohio’s capacity by a third. 1 A thermometer-well worked loose in the bearing oil pressure line that then sprayed oil onto a hot surface of the turbine. The intense fire melted glass, burned through part of the roof and warped roof trusses, leading to a partial collapse of roof sidewalls. An interconnection with the company’s system west of Lancaster was completed within hours that allowed the company to get back to full capacity. 1

A new instrument switchboard, water treating equipment, and a new laboratory for the continuous testing of coal were installed at Picway in 1952. 13

Construction of a fifth unit began by Townsend & Bottum of Michigan in 1953 and the 100 MW turbine 11 was completed at the cost of $13 million 1 on December 23, 1955. 11 The project required 1,500 tons of steel and 11,600 cubic yards of concrete for the new 143-foot tall extension of the powerhouse for an outdoor boiler. 1 11 In an effort to reduce particulate emissions, an electrostatic precipitator connected to a central 288-foot stack was also added. The company also built a new coal yard and crushers and installed a well and water pipeline. 9

Picway at its peak boasted a total capacity of 220 MW. 11

The American Electric Power Corporation (AEP) acquired Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric in 1980. 15 As part of the acquisition, AEP agreed to move its corporate headquarters to downtown Columbus.

Closure

Due to advanced age and low efficiency, units one through four were retired between 1972 and 1981. 1 Nearly 9,200 linear feet of asbestos from piping and 39,500 square feet of asbestos-containing material was abated from the retired No. 7 and No. 8 boilers in 1991, and the boilers were then reused for rescue training by AEP and the U.S. Air Force. 8

AEP installed a $1.2 million automated continuous emission monitoring system to watch smokestack gas emissions in 1993. 8 The system monitored for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide emissions and captured opacity levels. Low nitrogen oxide burners to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 40%-50% were then installed at the cost of $5.9 million. The burners controlled the way coal burned to reduce the formation of nitrogen oxide, a precursor to ozone.

The company then completed upgrades at Picway to extend the lifespan of the power plant in 1999-00 that included: 1

  • Instituting sub-minimum loading by achieving a 10% load, allowing the plant to stay online and reduce off-peak cost operations
  • Tuning controls to achieve AEP’s fastest load ramping, reducing startup and shut down times by several hours, which allowed the power plant to respond to system load conditions and serve as an auxiliary power plant facility
  • Modifying its power source so that it could burn low sulfur coal
  • Revising operating mill motor amp limits to reduce pulverizer outages
  • Repairing a superheater tube.

The changes resulted in Picway going from last in AEP’s dispatch order to the middle. 1

AEP then reworked Unit 5 for a coal cleaning project and to test the burning of waste sawdust blended with coal and a wood and grass pellet. 1 While the tests were successful, they were not economical and could not be commercialized. The unit also tested biodiesel to assist AEP in the generation of Renewable Energy Credits in an effort to start up the unit from a cold start. 1 Initial testing began in May 2010 and in July, it was reported as a success.

On June 2, 2010, AEP announced that Picway would only be operational during peak usage times as the national recession had lowered the demand for electricity. 6 The only remaining unit, Unit 5, was too expensive to run year-round.

Based upon Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, AEP sought to retire nearly 6,000 MMW of coal-fired power generation, upgrade or install new advanced emissions reduction equipment on another 10,000 MW, convert 1,070 MW of coal generation with 932 MW of natural gas generation, and build 1,220 MW of natural gas generation. 3 It was estimated that the project would cost $6 billion to $8 billion. 3

As part of the regulations, Unit 5 was shut down in mid-2013 1 and officially retired in May 2015. 3 The shuttered Picway Power Plant was sold Picway to Commercial Development Company of St. Louis, Missouri in July. 4 An affiliate, EnviroAnalytics Group, began soil and groundwater cleanup, asbestos abatement, and building demolition shortly after.

Railroad Access

The Picway power plant was serviced by the Scioto Valley Railway & Power Company (SVR), an electric interurban. 2 One of SVR’s locomotives was powered by steam rather than coal. 1 The steam was sourced from one of Picway’s boilers, which would allow the locomotive to run an entire day without stopping.

The SVR abandoned most of their passenger and general freight service on September 30, 1930, with only 13 miles of track between the power plant to Groveport via Obetz Junction left intact. 2 In 1932, the SVR became the Ohio Midland Light & Power Company (OML&P). The OML&P converted from steam to diesel locomotives in June 1955, 1 14 the last in the state to do so. 2 10

The OML&P abandoned a nine-mile segment of track between Groveport and Lockbourne circa 1957 10 and then dismantled their remaining track in 1958. 14 With the OML&P out of business, the Picway power plant was then serviced by the Chesapeake & Ohio and Norfolk & Western railroads.

Railroad service was discontinued in 1972 1 because of problems related to Penn Central Railroad’s West Virginia Secondary (PC) where much of Picway’s coal was sourced from. 7 Railroad access briefly returned during a blizzard in 1978. 1


Gallery


Sources

  1. “Picway.” American Electric Power, article.
  2. “Columbus Interurban Chronology.” Columbus Interurbans, article.
  3. Ward Jr., Ken. “EP would shutter 5 coal plants to meet EPA rules.” Charleston Gazette-Mail, 9 Jun. 2011, article.
  4. Williams, Mark. “AEP sells closing Picway coal-burning power plant.” Columbus Dispatch, 5 Jul. 2016.
  5. “Picway power plant set for redevelopment.” Picway News Journal [Circleville], 5 Jul. 2016.
  6. “AEP to Close Picway Plant Most of the Year.” Columbus Dispatch, 2 Jun. 2010.
  7. “RE: Power plant South of Columbus, Ohio.” Trainorders, 24 June 2001, article.
  8. “Picway Plant.” American Electric Power, article.
  9. “Power Company’s Expenditures To Exceed $10 Million In County.” Circleville Herald, 29 Mar. 1955, p. 2.
  10. “Memories of the Old ‘Third Rail’ Line Slowly Fade Away.” Circleville Herald, 28 May 1955, p. 10.
  11. “C&SO Installs Big Power Unit at PIcway Plant.” Circleville Herald, 23 Dec. 1955, p. 1.
  12. “Power Firm Plans New Generator.” Circleville Herald, 16 Dec. 1947, p. 4.
  13. “Local Power Plants Slated for Improvements.” Circleville Herald, 13 Mar. 1952, p. 5.
  14. “Ohio Firm to Abandoned Last Third Rail Line.” Daily Reporter [Dover] 4 Jun. 1955, p. 12.
  15. “History of AEP.” American Electric Power, article.
  16. “Columbus Transit History.” Chicago Railfan, article.