The American Electric Power (AEP) Picway Power Plant is a former power house located in Lockbourne, Ohio. It is mis-named after the county it resides in, Pickway.


History

The Picway Power Plant, constructed by Columbus Railway Power & Light Company (CRP&L), began operations on October 24, 1926 with Units 1 and 2, each with a 30-MW capacity. 1

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

The power plant was enlarged in 1943 with Unit 3, also 30-MW. 1 Originally installed on March 1942, it was not put into operation until the following year due to a shortage of materials to complete the project owing to World War II. It has not been confirmed that the turbine for Unit 3 had been built for, but not used by, the United States Navy.

A new 30-MW unit and a boiler of 975 PSI, producing 325,000 pounds of steam per hour, was ordered in early 1946. 12 Construction on Unit 4 began in December 1946 and put into operation in 1949 1 at a cost of $5 million. 12

At 1:59 pm on June 22, 1951, Unit 3 caught fire, disabling 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, allowing for Columbus & Southern Ohio to get back to capacity. 1 Thousands of feet of temporary wiring and manually operated switchboards were then installed. One unit was restored on June 18, a second on June 30, and a third on July 8.

In 1952, a new instrument switchboard was installed at a cost of $123,525, along with new water treating equipment at a cost of $62,757 and new laboratory for continuous testing of coal at $27,500. 13

Construction of the 100-MW Unit 5 began by Townsend & Bottum of Michigan in 1953 and was completed on December 23, 1955 11 at a cost of $13 million. 1 The project, which included the addition of a 400 ton turbo generator, required 1,500 tons of steel and 11,600 cubic yards of concrete for the new 143-foot tall extension of the power house 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 installed a well and water pipeline, new coal yard and coal crushing equipment and other improvements at a cost of $575,000. 9

The new total capacity for Picway was 220-MW, 11 consuming 220,000 tons of coal annually. 5 8

Railroad Access

Picway was served by the Scioto Valley Railway & Power Company (SVR), an electric interurban. 2

Initially, electric locomotives by the SVR provided coal and ash handling, but one locomotive was powered by steam rather than coal. 1 It was charged by steam taken from one of Picway’s boilers that could last the locomotive an entire day.

On September 30, 1930, the SVR abandoned most of their passenger and general freight service, leaving only track from Obetz Junction to Groveport and Obetz Junction to Picway, a total of 13 miles. 2 It interchanged with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and Norfolk & Western Railway to serve Picway. In 1932, the SVR became the Ohio Midland Light & Power Company (OML&P).

OML&P) converted from steam to diesel locomotives in June 1955, 1 14 the last in the state to do so. 2 10 The railroad abandoned a nine-mile stretch between Groveport and Lockbourne, leaving only four miles of track remaining between Lockbourne and Picway to deliver coal. 10 OML&P then abandoned their remaining track in 1958, with Picway being served directly from the C&O and N&W at Lockbourne instead of Groveport and Obetz Junction. 14

Rail service was discontinued in 1972 1 because of problems related to the Penn Central Railroad (PC), as much of the coal was sourced from mines located off of PC’s West Virginia Secondary. Rail access was briefly put back into operation during a blizzard in 1978. 1 A locomotive was rented to serve the power plant.

Changes

American Electric Power (AEP) acquired the Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company in 1980. 15 As part of the acquisition, AEP agreed to move its corporate headquarters to downtown Columbus, finishing the move in 1983 when its new building at 1 Riverside Plaza was completed.

Due to age and efficiency, Picway Units 1 through 4 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 the retired No. 7 and No. 8 boilers in 1991. 8 The boilers were then used for rescue training by AEP and the U.S. Air Force.

In 1993, AEP installed an automated continuous emission monitoring system to watch stack gas emissions at a cost of $1.2 million. 8 The system monitored sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions and opacity.

Low nitrogen oxide burners were installed at Picway in 1995 at a cost of $5.9 million to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 40% to 50%. 8 The burners controlled the way coal burned to reduce the formation of nitrogen oxide, a precursor to ozone.

In 1999 and 2000, AEP completed upgrades at Picway to extend the lifespan of the power plant that included: 1

  • Instituting sub-minimum loading at Picway 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. This allowed Picway to respond to system load conditions and serve as an auxiliary power plant.
  • Modifying its power source, adjusting 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 tested Picway’s Unit 5 for a coal-cleaning project. 1 Approximately 10% of the coal burned was processed through a test tower that was built next to the boiler structure.

Unit 5 also tested two biomass co-fire projects in an effort to reduce fuel costs and emissions. 1 One test involved waste sawdust blended with coal, while the other fired a wood and grass “pellet” product. While the tests were successful, they were not economical and the projects did not move to commercialization.

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.

Closure

On June 2, 2010 AEP announced that Picway would only be operational three months per year only during peak usage as a cost saving measure. 6 The national recession had lowered demand for electricity, making Unit 5 too expensive to run year-round.

AEP announced on June 9, 2011 that based upon impending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, AEP’s compliance plan would involve: 3

  • Retiring nearly 6,000-MW 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.
  • Build 1,220-MW of natural gas generation.

AEP estimated the project would cost $6 billion to $8 billion. 3 Part of the project involving Picway’s Unit 5, which was shut down in mid-2013. 1 It was not officially retired until May 2015. 3

In July, AEP sold Picway to Commercial Development Company of St. Louis, Missouri. 4 An affiliate, EnviroAnalytics Group, began soil and groundwater cleanup, asbestos abatement, ash pond closure, and building demolition.

Sources