FEUS director says a study is needed to answer carbon capture questions

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The San Juan Generating Station is pictured in 2015 in Waterflow.

FARMINGTON — Farmington Electric Utility System Director Hank Adair said there are a lot of questions about Acme Equities LLC’s proposal to install carbon capture technology on San Juan Generating Station, but the answers will remain unknown until Acme completes a study.

Adair answered questions about the proposal to keep the power plant open during a Public Utility Commission meeting Wednesday afternoon at Farmington City Hall.

The City of Farmington has signed a non-binding letter of intent with Acme that paves the way for the New York-based firm to take ownership of the San Juan Generating Station.

Farmington is currently a 5 percent owner of the plant, but a partnership agreement allows Farmington to acquire the other 95 percent because the other owners are not interested in keeping it open after the coal supply contract expires in 2022.

Commissioner Chris Hunter is in the process of drafting a letter of support for Acme to study installing carbon capture technology on the plant. The commission will likely discuss this letter during its April meeting.

History, future of San Juan Generating Station

Commissioner Gordon Glass expressed concerns about carbon capture technology because it has only been installed on two commercial coal power plants, and has been expensive.

“I don’t think the economic desires to protect our economy and keep it going need to be so powerful that we become unrealistic about what we’re dealing with,” he said. “I think it’s really important that we’re clear headed on this.”

The newly passed Energy Transition Act may present some challenges in Farmington and Acme’s efforts to keep the plant open. Adair explained the Energy Transition Act would require the plant to reduce emissions to less than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour by Jan. 1, 2023.

Those carbon emission requirements apply only to coal-fired power plants that generate at least 300 megawatts of power. There are only two coal-fired power plants in the state that currently produce 300 megawatts or more of power – the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant. Four Corners Power Plant is located on Navajo Nation land across the San Juan River from the San Juan Generating Station.

Adair said the San Juan Generating Station cannot meet that requirement in its current design and would need more time for the carbon capture technology to be installed. Once installed, the power plant will produce a little more than 200 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.

Adair said if Acme can prove the plan to install carbon capture is viable there could be legislation passed next year to allow the plant to remain open, or the city or Acme could apply for a variance to the carbon dioxide emission requirements.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.