St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold believes there is still hope Lambton Generating Station one day produce power again.
And he expects it will likely use natural gas to do it.
The Lambton Generating Station in Courtright was among the coal-fired plants closed down by the Liberal government in 2013 in a bid to improve air quality in the province. About 25 of the once 300-person strong staff remain employed there taking care of the shuttered plant.
Recently, Ontario Power Generation announced it would close a similar facility in Nanticoke laying off all the employees but would keep LGS employees on staff at the facility.
“It’s a positive thing for us,” says Arnold. “Hopefully, we’re on the radar for conversion.”
Arnold says eight or nine years ago, Ontario Power Generation did an environmental assessment for a natural gas pipeline to the plant. There is a major pipeline in the area now which will serve Eastern Power when it comes on line on Oil Springs Line adjacent to LGS.
Arnold says there is more than enough capacity – he’s been told – to serve both plants should OPG convert the former coal plant to natural gas.
A group of local agricultural leaders have also been promoting the idea of using biomass from corn to fire power plants; Arnold believes it is unlikely that will happen at LGS. In 2008, Arnold says there was a biomass test using corn stover. Eight truckloads of the material was brought in but burned in “less than 30 seconds.”
“Imagine the logistical nightmare to bring in things such as corn stov…with coal it is very dense…we don’t have anything that is very dense in the agricultural community.”
Don McCabe is the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The Inwood farmer is one of the people promoting biomass. He says power plants driven by biomass alone do work in places such as Demark but he admits it is unlikely LGS would be fully powered by biomass in the future.
“The opportunity to convert some of those furnaces into natural gas is still available… When you have an abundance of natural gas out of Pennsylvaina…the question becomes what is the best economic choice to create your power?
“In our case, biomass could be a good choice for hybrid…We could have materials that could be combusted in concert with natural gas to make sure we don’t waste one iota of material.
While Arnold is hopeful there is a future for the Courtright plant on Ontario’s power grid, there is still one factor which will drive the conversion – demand for power.
“If there is not the demand there, there is not going to be the expenditures made,” says Arnold.