The B.L. England power plant in Upper Township will shut down one of its coal-fired units next year and will convert its two other units to natural gas by 2016, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday morning.
The DEP released for the first time specific details of the plan to convert the coal and oil plant on the Great Egg Harbor Bay to cleaner natural gas technology, which is expected to dramatically reduce air pollution without diminishing power output.
The plant is one of the oldest in the state, and it is currently the only coal plant without modern pollution control equipment. Instead of installing that equipment, owner RC Cape May Holdings agreed to re-power with natural gas.
“The Christie administration is committed to improving the quality of air in New Jersey, taking a tough stance on holding in-state and out-of-state power plants accountable for reducing air pollution in New Jersey,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. “This agreement will bring one of the oldest plants here in New Jersey into the 21st century, and keep it there for a long time to come with extremely low emissions.”
RC Cape May Holdings has owned the plant since 2007, and the agreement resolves alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act that occurred when the plant was owned by Atlantic Electric, Conectiv and Pepco Holdings Co.
The DEP said that previous owners did not make pollution-control upgrades as required by the act when they made significant upgrades to the facility.
“This transformative solution provides the best alignment with the overall objectives of all stakeholders, and we’re committed to seeing it through,” Jim Maiz, senior vice president for RC Cape May Holdings, said in a statement.
The conversion is projected to reduce hourly nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 98 percent, or 2,800 tons per year. Hourly sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced by 99.9 percent, or 2,800 tons per year.
The new technology is also expected to be more efficient, not only keeping the overall capacity of the plant at 450 megawatts but possibly increasing it to 570 megawatts, Maiz said.