Coal troubles: As if carbon isn't bad enough

01/04/2010


In what is a real-life example of “pick your poison,” coal-burning power plants are dealing with a choice of spewing out sulfur dioxide that results in acid rain, or mercury that contaminates fish and causes birth defects. We won’t even get onto the topic of carbon emissions.

This is manifest in rising levels of mercury in a number of mid-western states, including Illinois, that come from coal-fired power plant stacks. The tradeoff in this case relates to the fact that many of the western coal fields in the Powder River valley have an unfortunate characteristic. While valued for low sulfur content, they have relatively high mercury levels. Much of the coal from Illinois is just the opposite. Federal restrictions on mercury emissions have been bouncing around for a long time and are likely to bounce for some years to come, although individual states are tighter. Sulfur dioxide is more defined, so utilities tend to deal with that first. (Something to think about if you’re hoping the EPA can restrict carbon emissions.)

Mercury, sulfur dioxide, and most other pollutants (other than carbon dioxide) have mature technologies for abatement. It’s not all that hard to reduce mercury by 80% using a combination of flue gas temperature management and powdered carbon injection. A number of plants in Illinois are installing that technology to meet state regulations. These things can be fixed, or at least most of them. It just gets more expensive.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Sensor-to-cloud interoperability; PID and digital control efficiency; Alarm management system design; Automotive industry advances
Make Big Data and Industrial Internet of Things work for you, 2017 Engineers' Choice Finalists, Avoid control design pitfalls, Managing IIoT processes
Engineering Leaders Under 40; System integration improving packaging operation; Process sensing; PID velocity; Cybersecurity and functional safety
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
click me