Utility MACT: No one-size-fits-all solution

One of the biggest concerns daunting power generators is the proposed Utility MACT rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) first attempt in history to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired units. Some of the power industry’s experts on the rule and technologies necessary for compliance spoke at the POWER-GEN International “Utility MACT” conference session on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

The session was particularly timely, as the final version of Utility MACT is expected to be released on Dec. 16. The rule will allow the industry three to four years to reach compliance. Utility MACT is expected to affect 1,350 coal and oil-fired units at 525 plants in all 50 states.

Two of the presenters, Peter Belmonte and Bob Fraser, senior partners, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), presented a hypothetical scenario of a coal-fired plant and the number of solutions possible for Utility MACT compliance.

The hypothetical plant, jovially referred to as Old Smokey Power Uptha Creek Station, is a 300 MW constructed in 1962. Prior to compliance, it contains twice the amount of particulate matter (PM) and hydrochloric acid (HCl) that Utility MACT will likely allow, and four times the amount of mercury (Hg) that will likely be allowed.

In order to reach the most stringent requirements that may be expected from EPA, Fraser said the plant would have to install $242 million of equipment. This would translate to an increase in cost of $.064 kW/hr.

The alternative to retrofitting the Uptha Creek Station, Fraser said, would be to install a new combined cycle unit. In comparison, this installation would cost $210 million, with an annual production cost of $.063/kWh (if the price of gas is $7).

The speakers gave the audience the opportunity to vote on whether they would choose to retrofit the plant or switch to natural gas. The vast majority of audience members chose to stick with coal.

“The best case is that many of these (Utility MACT) rules could be softened and the Lisa Jackson administration could be replaced with a softer administration,” Fraser said.

Carl Weilert, principal air pollution control engineer, Burns & McDonnell, provided an evaluation of data from the Information Collection Review of the Utility MACT regarding coal chlorine content at existing EGUs. The proposed Utility MACT rule includes an alternative to use HCl as a surrogate for acid gas hazardous air pollutants (HAPs); therefore, some generators are in search of an HCl compliant coal.

The study Weilert discussed found that HCl-compliant coal exists in several areas of the U.S., including Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

“This coal would be in compliance on its face with the proposed standard,” Weilert said.

For coals that are not HCl compliant, Weilert said semi-dry FGD and wet FGD have been demonstrated capable of achieving the HCl reduction levels needed for compliance.

Ultimately, the speakers presented the message that industry will reach MACT compliance through a number of solutions.

“There is no one-size-fits all solution,” said John Buschmann, technology manager for Alstom Technology. “Selections will vary by plant.”

With the rules expected to require compliance by the spring of 2015 or 2016, the speakers encouraged audience members to seek compliance solutions now. “The time is short,” Buschmann said. “In order to get the work done in the required amount of time, you need to start early.”

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