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Prairie State Energy Campus
Prairie State Energy Campus

Back in the late 1990s, the foundations for Prairies State Energy Campus were laid as a vision of Peabody Energy. That vision focused on how to better utelise the vast and cost effective domestic energy source located in the Illinois basin, albeit coal.

In 2001 Peabody Energy began working on the project, which consisted of developing a state-of-the-art power plant on top of its underground coal supply. The project was permitted in 2007 after undergoing years of rigorous testing and development, however its cost during this time became apparent and Peabody enlisted the help of eight local not-for-profit utilities companies, which between them bought 95 percent of the Campus.

Prairie State Energy Campus consists of 400 million tonnes of coal – according to estimations a 30-year supply. Since development the Campus has constructed a state-of-the-art underground coal mine and immediately on top of that and adjacent to the coal seam, a pioneering 1,600 megawatt electric generating station that is able supply electricity, safely, reliably, cost effectively and environmentally responsibly, to those eight not-for-profit utilities which between them service 2.5 million customers across eight states in the Midwest.

State-Of-The-Art Emission Controls

Prairie State Energy Campus is unique in its approach to environmental awareness and is leading the way when it comes to energy reduction. “We comply with the strictest environmental standards as published in our permit, issued by the state of Illinois,” explains Peter DeQuattro, CEO.

“However, the part that gets the most focus is the power plant and rightfully so,” he continues. “The power plant and its steam and electric generating cycle is state-of-the-art. It is called Super Critical, and that means it operates at a high pressure and temperature making it exceptionally efficient. It uses less fuel to produce a kilowatt of electricity than your typical coal fire power plant, we are about 10 to 15 percent more efficient.”

Owing to the fact that less fuel needs to be used to generate the same results, fewer emissions are emitted and thus fewer emissions need to be controlled. The Campus uses innovative processes to control its emissions and according to DeQuattro, “removes over 98 percent of the sulphur, well over 95.9 percent of the particulates, over 95 percent of the mercury, and 90 percent of the nitrogen oxide compounds that would otherwise emanate from the plant.

“The equipment we use represents over $1 billion investment by the owners and takes up 50 percent of the plant area,” demonstrating the Campus’ commitment to emission control and reduction. 

Managing Coal Combustion Residuals

Every aspect of emission control is considered by the Campus, down to coal combustion residuals such as fly ash, bottom ash and other byproducts of sulphur removal. In order to manage this effectively, all the materials are handled dry at a Coal Combustion Residual Management Facility.

“We handle the material in a solid form. There is no risk or danger of spilling ash and water mixture. We don’t use water to control the ash; it is managed in a dry state. The only water used on it is for dust control,” confirms DeQuattro.

Managing People

Some 24 million man-hours have gone into building the power plant and getting it up and running. The project started with just 22 construction managers on site and today it operates with 600 employees on a daily basis. With such strong core values, the Campus takes a lot of time to inform employees about the mission of the project, its objectives and consequently expectations of the employer.

“In May 2008, when we set up the organisation, we set out with a vision to be the place where the best people come to work. So how do you do that? It’s a business so we have to pay competitive wages and bonuses, however it cannot only be about the money, it has to be a culture as well.

“We knew that people would be a lynchpin of our business, so we started with our core values and hired them. We hired people that shared our values and who demonstrated aptitude and attitude aligned with ours. As well as safety and compliance, our values include reliability and stewardship – Where do people want to work? They want to work where they have the chance to feel impactful, or engaged. Not just for their work and efforts but also their opinions and ideas,” says DeQuattro.

DeQuattro takes great pride in the fact that he addresses every single new employee when the begin work at the Campus. “It starts out with a review of our core values, and a commitment from me that we will never sacrifice the health and safety of our employees, any visitors, the community or the environment for production or profit,” he says.

Future Investments

Prairie State Energy Campus has now completed its $5 billion initial build, however DeQuattro informs that this is a capital intensive business and as such ongoing capital investments have been factored into the plan. There are of course required annual investments owing to government regulation, however the Campus’ owners have also stated that when employees and management come up with recommendations for capital required projects to improve reliability, safety or cost effectiveness they are ready and willing to enhance the investment level.

Prairie State Energy Campus is unique insofar as its located on its fuel source, it has collapsed the supply chain and eliminated fossil fuel emissions from the process. It has state-of-the-art technology, whether it’s on the mining side or the steam and electric generation side and it has environmental controls in place that can effectively handle any byproducts. “All these are key differentiators as well as key lynchpins to our future sustainability,” says DeQuattro.  

“We think coal can be and should be and therefore will be a significant part of this country’s energy portfolio and policy. Our goal is to prove - through the results generated by Prairie State Energy Campus, not our words - all the naysayers wrong. Coal is safe, abundant, domestic, cost effective and lastly environmentally responsible,” concludes DeQuattro.




    2007 (groundbreaking)


    Around 500


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Marissa, Illinois, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

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Prairie State Energy Campus

Back in the late 1990s, the foundations for Prairies State Energy Campus were laid as a vision of Peabody Energy. That vision focused on how to better utelise the vast and...