Power Plant of the Week - Fore River Generating

Anyone who lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts knows the Fore River Generating plant. It's on the east side of the Fore River in Weymouth, MA, immediately south of the Rt. 3A bridge. The plant is a modern combined cycle facility that consists of two natural gas combustion turbines that both feed a steam turbine. In total, the plant has a summer capacity of approximately 700 MW and is run as a baseload or intermediate load following plant depending on natural gas prices. The natural gas comes to the plant via a lateral from the Algonquin natural gas pipeline, but the facility can also burn distillate fuel (a.k.a. No. 2) when natural gas prices are high or supplies are unavailable. Its environmental permits limit oil burn to approximately 720 hours annually, but this flexibility is extremely important to the ISO-NE grid for reliability.

Photo from Exelon website available via this link

Photo from Exelon website available via this link

In approximately the mid 1920s, the current site was developed by NStar predecessor company Boston Edison as the Edgar station. This was a coal fired unit supplemented with smaller oil fired turbines. Boston Edison retired the Edgar station sometime in the 1970s and the site was underutilized. In the mid-1990s, merchant generator Sithe Energies purchased the property when Boston Edison was obligated to divest its generating assets as part of electric industry restructuring.

Deregulation has been a long strange trip for many generating assets in ISO-NE and Fore River is no exception. Sithe Energies acquired the property from Boston Edison along with several other properties like the Mystic Generating Station in the late 1990s. It navigated the formidable Massachusetts permitting process and secured approval from the Energy Facilities Siting Board. You can review the final decision of the siting board here and it's an interesting read for several reasons, but one item that jumps out is the focus on CO2 emissions and discussions around mitigation strategies. In the photo below, you can see the plant as it exists today, with the oil tank, Rt. 3A to the North, and the power lines leaving the property to the south.

Aerial photograph taken from Google Earth on 2/4/14

Aerial photograph taken from Google Earth on 2/4/14

Sithe contracted with Raytheon's Engineering & Construction Group to build the plant, but midway through the project Raytheon sold this division to the Washington Group......who subsequently went bankrupt. Luckily, Sithe's contract required Raytheon to ensure project completion and Raytheon was obligated to finish construction which they did. Sithe Energies was purchased by Exelon and set up as a merchant generation subsidiary. Unfortunately, this Exelon subsidiary ran into serious financial problems in 2003 and Exelon handed the Fore River plant to its various creditors.

The creditors sold the Fore River plant to US Power Generation in 2005 who operated the facilities under the Boston Generating Co. subsidiary. The shale gas revolution wasn't kind to Boston Generating as they were heavily leveraged in a falling price environment and they were forced to declare bankruptcy in 2010. There are still some very angry creditors from this event. Google "Boston Generating Creditors" and you'll find plenty of info.

Constellation purchased the Fore River Generating station out of bankruptcy and Exelon merged with Constellation in 2011, reuniting the plant with its original owner.

This plant is a critical part of the ISO-NE electric grid and its dual fuel capabilities have been especially valuable during December 2013 and January 2014 when natural gas supplies have been scarce. One downside of the dual fuel capabilities of this facility is that distillate oil is delivered by barge to the tanks onsite, which requires the Fore River Bridge to open for extended periods of time. If you've ever had to sit through a bridge opening on 3A and deal with the resulting traffic, you know that it's no fun, but these bridge openings are the cost of fuel redundancy that gives us a reliable power grid. The MA Dept. of Transportation announces bridge openings on its Twitter feed at @MassDOT.