As the country makes its inexorable move from coal to natural gas electricity production, the headlines are filled with power plant conversion announcements. Those utilities considering fuel conversions should understand that several obstacles potentially stand in the way to obtaining environmental permits, and that planning needs to start three years or more in advance.
The road map to permitting and building a gas-fired plant requires multiple permitting steps and long-lead analyses that have to be funded and planned for as part of the capital project execution.
Gas-fired power plants are affected by three general permitting challenges. They include the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 316(b) rule that regulates how utilities draw and use water in their cooling processes; federal air pollution standards, and local government permitting.
In order to illustrate typical permitting challenges, Stanley Consultants developed a model for a fictitious gas-fired combined cycle plant of 500 MW to be built in the Midwest.