Yellow smoke emitted Monday by the new Matanuska Electric Association power plant in Eklutna is worrying some nearby residents.
According to MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey, the smoke is temporary and non- harmful. Estey says the smoke is a byproduct of installation and tests of the emission control system at the new power plant, which is expected to be completely on -line by the end of March.
“Our commissioning process at our new power plant had some yellow – tinged exhaust being emitted yesterday, and that was simply us fine -tuning our emissions control devices. They are called SCR devices, and the basically scrub the exhaust as it comes out of the stacks.”
The exhaust from the engines is part of the commissioning process. Tests are going on to fine- tune the devices that scrub nitrous oxide from the plant’s exhaust. The plant is designed to operate completely on natural gas, with diesel capability as backup.
“What that requires is a certain level of ammonia, aqueous ammonia, being injected into that system, and as the technicians were fine – tuning that amount aqueous ammonia to inject the chemical reaction was tingeing the exhaust yellow. And that was operating on diesel, now typically, our engines will run on natural gas, but we do want to test the full spectrum and range of their performance and so we were making sure that we could get that tuning done on diesel as well.”
Estey says the smoke was held in place by a temperature inversion, and that the smoke could return, off and on, during the commissioning phase, which will last for the next four to six weeks.
“All ten engines have now been run, and they are going through a battery of tests. Our goal is by January 15 to have four engines up and running completely and sending full output onto the grid.”
MEA plans to have all ten engines at the plant operating by the end of March.
The new, $324 million, Eklutna Generation Station started operations this month to provide power for MEA’s roughly 66,000 customers in Eagle River and the Matanuska Valley.
MEA has an interim contract with Chugach Electric to purchase power for the plant until the end of March. MEA and Cook Inlet energy producer Hilcorp signed an agreement in 2013 to provide natural gas for the Eklutna plant through March of 2018. The gas will be delivered through an existing Enstar pipeline.