Craig Station

Craig Station is a coal-fired power plant located near Craig, Colorado, in the northwestern region of the state. It is owned in part and operated by the Tri-State Generation and Transmission electric cooperative.  Craig Station consists of three units. Units 1 and 2 are known jointly as the Yampa Project, and are jointly owned by Tri-State and four other regional utilities—PacifiCorp, Platte River Power Authority, Salt River Project and Xcel Energy. Unit 3 is owned by Tri-State alone.

Construction of Craig Station was a decade-long, $1.2 billion project, beginning in 1974. Unit 2 was completed in 1979, Unit 1 in 1980 and Unit 3 in 1984. The most significant construction since then has been a massive $121 million environmental upgrade commenced in 2002.  Craig Station today employs approximately 300 people. It is 1,120 acres in size, with a stack height of 600 feet. It produces net energy of 1,304 megawatts.  Craig Station’s water source is the Yampa River, with supplemental allocations from Elkhead Creek Reservoir for Units 1 and 2, and from Yamcolo Reservoir for Unit 3.

In terms of environmental controls, a 24-hour emissions-monitoring system is in place to ensure that flue gas emissions remain within legal limits. Units 1 and 2 use a wet limestone scrubber system to remove 90 percent of the sulfur dioxide produced, while Unit 3 uses a dry lime system for this purpose. Fabric-filter baghouses collect 99 percent of the fly ash produced. Low-NOx burners and over-fired air are used to reduce the formation of nitrogen dioxide.  Despite these measures, the station released over 17,000 tons of NOx into the atmosphere in 2006.

The bulk of the coal for Craig Station comes from the Trapper Mine one mile south of the power plant, and the Colowyo Mine 30 miles to the southwest. Coal is brought in by 100-ton haul trucks from Trapper, a 10,000 acre mine which yields 2.3 million tons of coal annually. Coal is brought in by train from Colowyo, a 12,000 acre mine which yields 3.4 million tons of coal annually. Trapper has an estimated life span through at least 2014, while Colowyo has an estimated life span through at least 2016.  Spot purchases of coal are made from other mines in the area as needed.

Like many other power plants built in and before the 1970s, Craig Station very likely contains asbestos in its construction and insulation materials.  Due to its heat-resistant properties, asbestos was once a popular insulating material that could insure that machinery as well as the rooms it was in could withstand extreme temperatures.  Unfortunately, as the insulating material breaks down, it releases dangerous asbestos fibers into the air where, once breathed in, they can cause severe health problems.