$700 million investment addresses growth in the region and expected future energy demand 

Project benefited 150 companies, contributed $12 million to local subcontractors

A new 750-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant at the W.S. Lee Station in Anderson County, S.C., began generating gas-fired power for Duke Energy (ticker: DUK) customers last week in South Carolina and North Carolina.

Construction of the $700 million plant started in March 2015. Duke said it expects nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and other emissions to drop by 87 percent overall in comparison to the station’s previous coal-fired operation. Duke closed two coal-fired units at the W.S. Lee Station in 2014 and converted a third coal unit to natural gas in 2015.

The company no longer operates any plants in South Carolina that use coal as fuel.

The new combined-cycle unit is also expected to generate about $4.4 million in tax revenue in 2019 for Anderson County.

Fluor Corp. was the combined-cycle natural gas plant’s engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

The unit receives natural gas through a new dedicated pipeline that branches off the transcontinental mainline. Crews installed the new 1-mile pipeline and associated metering and compression equipment on existing Duke Energy Carolinas and Piedmont Natural Gas rights of way.

Duke Energy Carolinas owns nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas, renewables and hydroelectric generation that produce 19,700 megawatts of owned electric capacity to about 2.5 million customers in a 24,000-square-mile service area of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Gas will provide one-third of U.S. electricity for next two years

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) the EIA forecasts that natural gas will remain the primary source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years. The share of total electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants is expected to average 33% in 2018 and 34% in 2019, up from 32% in 2017. EIA expects the share of generation from coal, which had been the predominant electricity generation fuel for decades, to average 30% in 2018 and 28% in 2019, compared with 30% in 2017.

The mix of energy sources used for producing electricity generation continues to shift in response to changes in fuel costs and the development of renewable energy technologies, EIA says. Since 2015, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators has generally averaged $3.50 per million British thermal units (Btu) or less, and it is expected to remain near this level through 2019.


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