ILLINOIS POWER TO BUY SCRUBBERS TO KEEP BURNING LOCAL COAL

ILLINOIS POWER TO BUY SCRUBBERS TO KEEP BURNING LOCAL COAL

Illinois Power Co., the state's second-largest electric utility, signed a letter of intent to buy scrubbers for two of its three 560-megawatt boilers at the Baldwin plant near St. Louis. The move will allow the utility to keep burning southern Illinois coal as it meets tougher federal air standards.

Illinois Power of Decatur said the scrubbers - or flue gas desulfurization units - would come from Babcock and Wilcox of Barberton, Ohio.Completion of the first unit is targeted for Jan. 1, 1995, at the plant located south of Belleville, Ill., southeast of St. Louis.

Spokesman Frank Beaman said the plant was built there because it is located between two coal mines connected to the power plant by dedicated rail lines.

Adding the scrubbers means Illinois Power can keep burning the high-sulfur coal from that area.

The third Baldwin power unit will blend in some low-sulfur coal from western suppliers, but Mr. Beaman said the company has not decided which source of western coal to use.

Those loads would come to Baldwin by rail or truck, he said.

Illinois Power pegged the total cost of installing the scrubbers and related facilities at $250 million to $350 million.

Although the company has five other coal-fired plants and one nuclear unit, Baldwin is so big that the changes at its power units will bring the company into overall compliance with new federal rules.

"On the normal summer day, Baldwin is supplying more than half of our total generation," Mr. Beaman said.

It accounts for an annual coal burn of 4.5 million tons, he said, out of a system total of more than 7 million.

That includes some Indiana and Western U.S. coal, but 6 million tons come

from Illinois mines.

After a series of rate hikes in past years to pay for the nuclear plant, Mr. Beaman said the company wants to avoid higher rates to comply with air standards: "Our goal is zero (air quality-related rate hikes) and we're very serious about it."

The utility is getting some help from a $35 million state grant for the scrubber project. It is also exploring a new byproduct sale - that will market limestone used in the scrubbing process - as well as saleable credits for any over compliance.