Comanche Station

Comanche Power Plant, located in Pueblo, Colorado, is a steam-electric generating station fired by coal. Colorado’s largest power plant, Comanche Station has three operating units capable of producing 1,500 megawatts. The low-sulfur coal used to fuel the plant comes from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Comanche’s Unit 1 began operating in 1973. Unit 2 started in 1975, and Unit 3 began in 2010. Units 1 and 2 belong to Xcel Energy, which now also owns two-thirds of the third unit. Holy Cross Energy and Intermountain Rural Electric own the other third.

Comanche Station is situated just one-quarter mile away from Evraz Steel Mill, Xcel’s largest commercial account and the sole direct electric customer of the area. Any other electricity generated is sold to the electric distribution company or goes to the power grid. Black Hills Energy distribution company is one of its largest wholesale customers, obtaining two-thirds of the power it needs from Xcel Energy.

Comanche has made environmental improvements to control their emissions. Baghouses control air emissions at the plant. They serve as huge vacuum cleaners, removing over 99% of particulates. All three units have lime-spray dryers for controlling SO2 emissions and low-nitrogen oxide burners for controlling NOx emissions. Comanche uses approximately ten-thousand acre-feet of water annually for cooling equipment, as well as to produce steam, which turns the turbine generators. During drought conditions of 2002, Comanche looked into ways to conserve water at the plant. Comanche then implemented water conservation projects to reduce its total consumption. The newest unit is equipped with a low-water use system, an air-cooled condenser. Because of its additional cooling capability, this system reduces water use by about one-half.

Comanche Station, like many other mills, factories, and power plants of the last century, likely used asbestos for its heat-resistant and non-corrosive properties. Though asbestos did protect the facilities, equipment, and, to some extent, workers from harm for a short time, the long-term damage it did far outweighed its protective benefits. Though even brief exposure to asbestos can cause disease, long-term exposure, like that suffered by many power plant workers, is likely to lead to serious health problems like pleural plaques, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.