Kemper County plant delayed again

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Another month’s delay, another $33 million in cost overruns for the Kemper County power plant.

Mississippi Power said in its monthly report to the state Public Service Commission on Monday that it expects the plant to start running on lignite by Nov. 30. The company had been forecasting an Oct. 31 start date.

The latest delay raises the total estimated cost of the project — which is more than two years behind schedule — to about $6.9 billion.

Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility on July 14 began producing syngas for the first time. The syngas is being flared as part of the start-up testing operation.

Mississippi Power

Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility

Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard said the utility needs the extra month to prepare both of the plant’s gasifiers to produce electricity using synthesis gas, or “syngas” and to integrate the plant’s systems necessary for both of the plant’s combustion turbines to simultaneously generate electricity.

“The company also revised the cost estimate subject to the cost cap for the Kemper project to include an additional $33 million,” Shepard said in an email. “This includes approximately $5 million for repairs, modifications and mechanical improvements and approximately $28 million related to the schedule extension.”

These costs will be paid by Mississippi Power and its Atlanta-based parent Southern Co., and not Mississippi Power customers, he said.

Shepard stressed that the project is still moving toward completion. The plant’s first gasifer started converting lignite to syngas in July, and the second gasifer began operating in September. The plant currently runs on natural gas.

The announcement of the delay came on the same day that Mississippi ratepayers were able to gain more information about plant operations through a Public Service Commission “discovery docket,” or electronic file on the commission’s website related to the Kemper facility.

Through the docket, ratepayers can examine documents related to the plant and ask questions of both the commission and Mississippi Power about the project.

The docket includes an overview of Mississippi Power’s procedures and controls to manage the development and operation of the project; accounting procedures and the company’s performance expectations for the plant’s first five years of operation.