Burns & McDonnell Make Strides on Five-Year Project

After 16 months of razing work, Burns & McDonnell has completed the demolition phase of a five-year project to convert R.D. Morrow, Sr. Generating Station (Plant Morrow) from coal to a natural gas-fired combined cycle plant.  

Photo: Burns & McDonnell

When fully operational in early 2023, the combined-cycle plant — equipped with advanced-class combustion turbine technology and reusing an existing steam turbine — will be able to generate 550 MW of energy, becoming the most efficient coal-to-gas heat recovery repower project in North America.,  

"For more than 40 years, Plant Morrow has provided safe, reliable and affordable electricity to help power thousands of homes and businesses throughout Mississippi," says Jeff Bowman, president and CEO of Cooperative Energy. "As we progress toward a new era of power generation, the shift to lower-cost natural gas brings cleaner, more efficient combined-cycle technology." 

Facing a fast-approaching power deficit within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market, Cooperative Energy announced plans to bolster generation at Plant Morrow in 2018. Rather than build a new greenfield plant, the cooperative partnered with Burns & McDonnell to evaluate all possible options, including repowering one of the utility's two coal-fired plants.  

Due to ongoing maintenance and upkeep, coupled with the significant capital cost benefits of reusing its steam generator, Cooperative Energy elected to pursue a heat recovery repower strategy to propel its natural gas combined-cycle plant. 

While repowering has grown increasingly common, a heat recovery repower is unique in that it adds a natural gas combustion turbine within the existing infrastructure. 

"By using a heat recovery repower approach, the reuse of existing equipment and infrastructure will result in notable cost savings for both the cooperative and its customers throughout the region," said Craig Demmel, power generation project manager at Burns & McDonnell. "The resulting combined-cycle plant will add nearly 350 MW of generation to a single unit — three times more unit generation capacity than previously available. The plant's resolute reputation for reliability and service will continue well into the future with natural gas as its new fuel source." 

The project teams have worked more than 450,000 hours with zero safety incidents — even through the height of the coronavirus pandemic. From daily temperature checks to staggered schedules to improve social distancing, Burns & McDonnell is maintaining its commitment to making clients successful through robust, highly adaptive safety and health practices onsite.Now that demolition is complete, crews have moved on to excavation, piling and execution of the project's foundation package.  

The repowered unit is expected to begin firing in summer 2022 and go commercial by March 2023.The firm's vast experience in designing and constructing natural gas-powered facilities ranges from aeroderivative to the largest J-class and advanced-class combustion turbines to reciprocating engines. Burns & McDonnell ranks No. 1 in Power and is ranked as the No. 1 design firm in the Louisiana Gulf Coast region by Engineering-News Record. 

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