Coal, Gas

Consultant projects $25 billion in scrubber spending

Nov. 3, 2000—U.S. power companies will commit $25 billion to install scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) at new and existing coal-fired plants over the next 9 years, predicts a Midwest consultant.

Existing U.S. power plants will commit over $15 billion to install scrubbers to remove SOx, according to a survey by the McIlvaine Co., and during the same period, construction of new coal-fired plants will accelerate resulting in total scrubber commitments of another $10 billion.

“This is a fast changing and volatile market” says Bob McIlvaine, company president.

Some of the factors affecting the market today include: ongoing environmental lawsuits by the government against existing coal-fired plants, the price of natural gas, electricity growth, gas turbine supply and maintenance issues, development of coal gasification technology, global warming, regional haze, and competitive issues resulting from deregulation of the industry.

McIlvaine says momentum exists that was not in place before.

“The body politic is now almost universally opposing the special ‘grandfather’ or exempt status for the old coal-fired plants,” he says. “Coal will be counted on to supply more than 50% of the electricity in the U.S. for the next few decades at least. So every effort will be made to utilize the existing facilities.”

The forecast projects an average of 3 years between order placement and startup. McIlvaine expects new flue gas desulfurization (FGD) system orders will total less than $500 million in 2001 but will rise to over $2 billion in 2003 and to $4 billion by 2007.

However, much of the effort is already underway, he says. Study contracts are being signed. The majority of the systems purchased will use limestone or lime and will produce gypsum, McIlvaine predicts. A mix of wet and dry scrubbers will be selected, while some plants will opt for production of ammonium sulphate or other sulfur compounds.

The initial beneficiaries will be the handful of system suppliers, McIlvaine says. But expenditures for high alloy steel, pumps, piping, nozzles, instrumentation, mist eliminators, baghouses, spray driers, limestone, lime, fans, ductwork, clarifiers, hydrocyclones, and many other items will be substantial.

And, while U.S. system suppliers will have an edge, he says, Japanese and European suppliers will provide competition and will insure there is no lack of vendor capacity.