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Control Solutions: What’s In, What’s Out

By LindsayM

By Lindsay Morris, Associate Editor, lindsaym@pennwell.com

Between now and Nov. 16, the power industry will finally be given answers to questions. Questions like: “Will I need to retire or retrofit this coal-fired plant?” “What kind of technology solutions will need to be installed?” “How many millions of dollars will we need to spend on retrofits?”

Nov. 16 (or earlier) is bound to be a red-letter day (or some might say, doomsday) for the power industry. It’s the day when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is due to release the finalized Utility MACT rule.

While some folks in the industry fear that the rule will be one of the most expensive in history, speculations will hold no bearing until the official rule is announced. Until then, shopping for the right control technology has likely already begun. And just like purchasing a car or a computer, trends will largely dictate decision-making.

Here are a few trends occurring in regards to emissions control technologies:

#1 Fabric filters are in; ESPs are out.

I’ve been hearing this across the board from a number of different technology developers and engineering consultants. Electrostatic precipitators are becoming a capture device of the past. Why?

Fabric filters (also known as baghouses) typically provide a higher mercury co-benefit capture than ESPs. However, ESPs are more effective at capturing fine particulate matter, or PM2.5. But fabric filters have a higher pressure drop than ESPs, which may result in a higher operational cost. And fabric filters also have a higher maintenance cost due to the filter media, which must be changed periodically.

“A fabric filter typically has a lower capital cost than an ESP, but a higher maintenance cost,” said Steve Francis, product engineering manager with Alstom Power’s Environmental Control Systems. “You trade initial capital investment cost for maintenance costs.” (see the August issue story on PM controls for more).

Ankur Jajoo, research analyst for Frost & Sullivan, said that ESPs are viewed as an aged technology. “They require a lot of cost and maintenance. With Utility MACT being enforced, fabric filters are seen as a more reliable and cost-effective replacement.”

#2 Multi-pollutant solutions = In for the small guys

The market has been inundated with a number of multi-pollutant control technology solutions. These technologies are designed to control NOx, SO2, mercury – you name it – and are typically cheaper and smaller than traditional control methods. Sounds like a universal solution, right?

Multi-pollutant solutions have adopted a bit of a “one size fits all” stigma. And in reality, one size does not fit all. A 600 MW coal-fired plant certainly requires different retrofits than a 240 MW combined cycle plant.

Jajoo says many of the larger solution providers will stay away from developing multi-pollutant solutions altogether. “Implementing a multipurpose solutions would end up reduce their technology line. It could also stagnate growth for certain companies if they only have one solution.”

Multi-pollutant solutions were originally designed for smaller plants, and that is likely where they will stay put. In some cases, a multi-pollutant solution may actually be the best option for a small plant. For example, Skyonic’s multi-pollutant SkyMine technology can be used on 50 MW plants where traditional technologies, such as wet-limestone-scrubbers and SCR, are typically not feasible.

#3: International options will abound

Jajoo predicts that international partnerships will likely occur among solution providers. For example, one company with a NOx control expertise may partner with an international company that has an SO2 expertise.

The U.S. will likely see a big need for technology solutions between now and 2016, when most of the regulations are set to be met. That could result in an influx of Indian and Chinese solution providers venturing into the North American market, Jajoo said.

Likewise, some American technology developers may eventually take their solutions abroad, especially to developing electric markets in Africa, Asia and South America.

“Worldwide, we’re likely to see a lot of countries following the directives of the IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the EPA,” Jajoo said.

That will mean plenty of SO2, NOx, PM and HAPs control technologies will need to be created – both for the U.S. and for the rest of the world.

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