Southern Research ready to aid coal-fired utilities address new emissions standards cost effectively

Source: Southern Research

Late in 2011, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dec. 21 announced new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) - limiting mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution from power plants-engineers and technicians at Birmingham-based Southern Research were already working with industry to respond to dictates of the new rule, one which could prove costly to some coal-fired utilities.

The EPA issued the rule in response to health and environmental concerns associated with emissions of mercury, other toxic trace elements, acid gases, and particulates. The new standard, based on maximum achievable control technology (MACT), applies to coal and oil-fired utilities.

"This rule means some coal-fired power plants may need to shut down, while others will be required to install various types of environmental control technologies," said Robert Dahlin, director of Southern Research's Power Systems and Environmental Research in Alabama. "The EPA estimates the cost impact to be $9.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive rules ever promulgated."

Southern Research is able to measure the levels of mercury, trace elements, hydrogen chloride, and fine particles being emitted from power plants. Its pilot-scale demonstration facility can quantify the level of control achieved from conventional pollution-control technologies.

"The utility industry is already investigating the use of improved environmental control technologies such as activated carbon injection for mercury capture," said Dahlin. "Many plants have already installed or are in the process of installing scrubbers that can be optimized for capturing certain pollutants."

Dahlin added that Southern Research is already working to improve processes to control mercury, selenium, arsenic, hydrogen chloride, and fine particles, in some cases conducting groundbreaking work developing new test methods and instruments, and improving process and emission control technologies. Southern Research also manages the on-site chemistry and particulate laboratories at the National Carbon Capture Center.

"There is a need for additional measurements to better define the problem and a need for pilot-scale demonstrations to determine which technologies can be used to meet the new rule most cost effectively," he said. "Our highly-qualified technical team has extensive experience making all of the applicable measurements using EPA methods and other accepted procedures. We are able to make these measurements at the customer's site or in our pilot-scale combustion research facility where various technologies and sorbents can be tested."

Southern Research is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization that conducts advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, environment and energy, and preclinical drug discovery and development.

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