Explosion shuts down Xcel's Black Dog power plant in Minnesota

By Dorothy Davis

Xcel Energy’s (NYSE: XEL)  Black Dog coal- and gas-fired power plant was shut down Tuesday following a fire and subsequent explosion at the plant’s 108-megawatt Unit 3 burner.

Workers at the plant noticed smoldering in a coal hopper early Tuesday morning and notified Burnsville emergency services. Response crews were on the scene when contents of the bin fully ignited, resulting in an explosion that blew out some 200 feet of the plant’s west-facing wall. 

Three firefighters sustained minor injuries, none of the plants employees were hurt.

The power plant will remain offline as officials from Xcel, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Burnsville Fire Department determine the cause of the blast. Company officials stated that services will not be interrupted because power is being routed from an alternate source to serve customers.

Black Dog is a coal- and gas-fired generating station, located on the Minnesota River with a 538-megawatt capacity. In 2002, Unit 1 and Unit 2 coal-fired boilers were replaced with Unit 5, a natural gas combined-cycle unit that includes a natural gas-fired turbine-generator combined with a heat recovery steam generator. Units 3 and 4 are dual-fuel boilers with steam turbines that continue to utilize coal.

Xcel currently has a proposal pending with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to retire Black Dog's two remaining coal-fired boilers, converting them to natural gas combined-cycle units by 2016. The company also recently submitted a proposal in Colorado to retire, repower or retrofit several of its coal-fired generation plants in the state.

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