LITTLETON, Colo.Earth Sciences Inc. recently announced that its ADA Environmental Solutions (ADA-ES) subsidiary is one of two organizations selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to field test mercury-emissions controls for coal-burning power plants. The proposed $6.8 million contract, which includes $2.3 million of industrial cost share, represents the U.S. government’s first step toward defining technology platforms for utility companies to use in meeting expected mercury regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA, thinking of regulating mercury for a decade, is forced to decide by Dec. 15 whether it is appropriate and necessary to regulate mercury from coal-fired boilers. If mercury were to be regulated, it would dramatically affect the way coal-burning power generators operate. Today there are no uniform methods or technologies to control mercury from power plant flue gas emissions.
Under the contract, ADA-ES will work in partnership with PG&E National Energy Group, Wisconsin Electric Power Co., EPRI, and a third utility to design and engineer systems to maximize effectiveness and minimize costs to curtail mercury emissions from power plant flue gases. Reports estimate that mercury control will open up a $5 billion per year business if EPA regulates the substance. Much of these costs will be associated with power plants that do not have wet scrubbers as part of their air pollution control configurations. The four plants that will be evaluated during the ADA-ES program are typical of this type of application, which is found at 75 percent of the nearly 1,100 units that would be impacted by new regulations.
Specifically, ADA-ES will develop and field test a portable mercury-control system on four different power plant configurations that use electrostatic precipitators or fabric filters to remove particulates. The system sprays a fine mist of water into the gas stream to lower temperatures and increase effectiveness of dry sorbents that are injected to remove remaining mercury compounds. Field testing a portable system will reduce costs and minimize the amount of equipment.
ADA-ES was selected from a national, competitive search by the DOE, based on its experience in flue-gas conditioning and its history of using DOE technology to create commercial products.
“ADA-ES brings to this important public-private initiative a substantial track record in helping power generators remain competitive and responsible in a deregulated environment,” said ADA-ES president Dr. Michael Durham. “We understand the unique dynamics of environmental technology and how it can be applied to serve the best interests of both the utility industry and its customers.”
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute of Clean Air Companies (ICAC) reports, “It seems likely that the U.S. EPA will require coal-fired utility boilers to control mercury emissions, especially following the recent report of the National Academy of Sciences. Both the air pollution control industry and policymakers have targeted cost-effective control of mercury emissions as a high R&D priority. This DOE program should contribute to the body of knowledge available to all affected parties on cost-effective mercury control technologies.”