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Duke Energy's $1.5B Natural Gas Plant Comes Online in Florida

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Duke Energy Corporation (DUK - Free Report) recently announced that it has commenced the operation of its new state-of-the-art combined-cycle natural gas plant worth 1,640-megawatt (MW) capacity in Citrus County, FL.

The company has incurred a capital investment of nearly $1.5 billion to build the high-tech natural gas facility in Citrus County, surrounding communities and Florida. The natural gas station is expected to generate energy for Floridians by generating cleaner and more efficient energy.

As of 2017, the company had an energy generation mix of 34%, 33%, 28% and 5% from nuclear, coal and oil, natural gas and renewable, respectively. The company has set a new goal to lower its carbon emissions by 40% from the 2005 level within 2030. Also, natural gas is projected to attain 42% of the company's electricity generation portfolio.

Details of the Project

The project became operational in two phases, firstly 820 MW of power block started running on Oct 26 while the second 820 MW power block came online on Nov 24.

This new natural gas plant will replace the company’s existing two 1960s-era coal-fired units and a nuclear plant, which will retire in December 2018. The demolition process is expected to be completed by 2023. The company’s Citrus combined-cycle natural gas plant is likely to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other emissions by 90% in comparison to the operation at Crystal River coal-fired units 1 and 2.

To Sum Up

Fundamentals of natural gas continue to be favorable for the long run, considering the shift to cleaner burning fuel for power generation globally, and in the Asia-Pacific region in particular. Increasing replacement of coal-fired power plants by natural gas units and higher energy consumption by industrial projects are likely to ensure strong demand for natural gas.

Presently, Duke Energy is making investments in natural-gas projects to curb its carbon footprint. To this end, the company’s five-year plan includes an expense of $3 billion for highly-efficient natural gas-fired combined-cycle plants. Duke Energy has retired 47 coal-fired electric generating units with a combined generating capacity of 5,425 MW. Much of the same has been swapped with natural gas-fired generation projects.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants will rise from 32% in 2017 to 35% in 2018 and to 36% in 2019.

Price Performance

Duke Energy’s stock has rallied nearly 5.3% year to date, outperforming the industry’s rise of 1.7%.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Duke Energy currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A few better-ranked stocks in the same industry are Ameren Corporation (AEE - Free Report) , American Electric Power Company, Inc. (AEP - Free Report) and Atlantic Power Corporation (AT - Free Report) , each carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Ameren delivered average positive earnings surprise of 15.40% in the last four reported quarters. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has been revised 3.7% upward to $3.37 per share over the past 60 days.

American Electric Power pulled off average earnings surprise of 4.58% over the trailing four reported quarters. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 earnings has been raised 1.8% to $3.96 per share over the past 60 days.

Atlantic Power came up with average beat of 25.63% in the preceding four reported quarters. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings has moved 188.9% north to 17 cents per share over the past 60 days.

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