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Natural Gas

Featured Plant Profile: Plant McDonough-Atkinson

How Natural Gas Generates Energy

Natural gas is first removed from wells drilled into the ground. It is then treated to remove any impurities before pipelines transport the natural gas to power plants. Most often, power plants create electricity from natural gas by burning the gas in a boiler to produce steam; the steam is then used by a steam turbine to generate electricity.


Plant McDonough-Atkinson:
From Coal to Natural Gas

In continuing efforts to create cleaner power, Georgia Power is replacing coal-fueled units with three 840-megawatt natural gas units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson. The new units will produce enough electricity to power 625,000 homes. This change will ensure reliability of electric service to north Georgia, while reducing the environmental impact of the plant on the local community.

In January 2012 and May 2012, the first two natural gas units became operational. The third unit is scheduled to start in November 2012.

Natural gas-fueled combined cycle power plants offer one of the cleanest and most efficient methods of producing electricity. Combined cycle plants can produce large amounts of electricity at high efficiencies and with low emissions.

Natural gas-fueled plants also have the capability to start up quickly to meet immediate customer demands. This feature helps operators deal with power line voltage issues, which helps to prevent blackouts such as those experienced in other parts of the United States.

The three combined cycle units are designed to recycle cooling water through the use of cooling towers, so there is essentially no thermal impact on the Chattahoochee River.

Plant McDonough-Atkinson's three natural gas-fueled units will result in the following emissions reductions:

  • 95 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions
  • 99 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide (S02) emissions
  • 100 percent reduction in mercury (Hg) emissions
  • 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission rate

Plant McDonough-Atkinson: Building Green

The construction of the new natural gas-fired units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson ranks as potentially the greenest building project Georgia Power has ever undertaken. Because the new plant is being built on an existing site, construction workers had to demolish roads, buildings and parking lots. The company recycled most of the debris, crushing and reusing 19,000 tons of concrete slabs and rocks and recycling 195 tons of metal and steel, along with 23,000 pounds of tires found buried on an adjacent commercial site acquired for the new construction.


In order for Plant McDonough-Atkinson's natural gas-fueled units to operate, Georgia Power has installed a pipeline to transport natural gas to the plant from the Southern Natural Gas system north of Union City, Ga. View Map

More than 95 percent of this natural gas pipeline is located within an existing electric transmission right-of-way. The 30-inch pipe is buried a minimum of 5 feet underground, and is located on a route approximately 19 miles long. The line also crosses under the Chattahoochee River and several other small creeks, as do other pipelines throughout the state, and these crossings are bored underground at greater depths.

All environmental, cost, design and safety issues associated with constructing and building the pipeline were taken into account before the final proposal was submitted to the Georgia Public Service Commission for approval. Georgia Power worked with all state agencies to ensure proper installation and safety of the pipeline.

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