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When will it be Too Hot in the Kitchen?

Issue 9 and Volume 117.

alt   By Bob Nicolo, Director, AQCS, Hitachi Power Systems America LTD

The recent White House GHG agenda is trickling down the EPA corridors, and will soon be a major challenge to the power generation industry. Although the EPA is expected to issue final CO2 emission limits this month for new units and proposed limits for existing units mid next year, it is far too soon to tell how this will affect our country’s future energy landscape. Major emissions regulations to date have resulted in many units of coal fired plants to be shut down, and with these new GHG regulations looming, we certainly expect this trend to continue.

The originally proposed limit for new plants was met with significant criticism because at 1000 lb/MWh it would only affect coal-fired power plants. This was one many reasons that forced the EPA to reconsider the limit, which is likely to include considerations for various fuel types and generation technologies.

GHG emissions generated from coal plants are only a piece of this complex puzzle. Effective regulations must address all types of fuels and generation technologies considering their respective carbon footprints. A more sensible approach would be an economy-wide GHG policy which would take into account every ton of carbon emitted no matter if it is from the power generation, the transportation sector, etc. Furthermore, any unilateral action by the U.S. would not be sufficient to reverse the global trend of GHG increase without the cooperation from other leading economies.

Most people anticipate that GHG regulations will have a more profound impact than any previous environmental regulations. Clear and sensible regulations based on technology rather than ideology is the only way to avoid excessive public confusion, political gridlock and long delays, as is too often the case with recent EPA regulations. Power plant owners need the regulatory visibility and certainty to make long-term investment decisions that will affect generations of current and future customers.

Technology developers, collaborating with government agencies like the Department of Energy, have done a good job in the past developing and supplying new technologies necessary for the power industry to comply with new regulations, whether it is PM, SO2, NOx, or mercury control, provided that a clear regulatory pathway exists to justify the necessary investment to develop the required technologies. The same is happing now with GHG control. For example, Hitachi has been investing heavily in new and efficient power generation methods and the technologies for direct capture of carbon dioxide.

Bringing in the next generation, ultra-efficient generation technologies on line to replace the aging generation fleet is arguably the most cost effective way for conserving energy resources and for reducing all emissions including CO2, not to mention the many skilled jobs coming with it.

In this regard, Hitachi has developed the design, material and manufacturing methods necessary to supply the 700 degree C class ultra-supercritical power plant, building on our experience in supplying the global market with today’s state-of the-art, 600 degree C class supercritical plants. For natural gas, we have developed the Advanced Humid Air Turbine (AHAT) that has shown thermal efficiency comparable to combined cycle units and better operating flexibility and short response time, without using a separate steam turbine.

For direct CO2 capture, based on decades of R&D, we have developed designs for both oxyfuel combustion and post-combustion capture system that are ready for full-size demonstration in power plants.

In collaboration with DOE, Southern Company / National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC), and UND Energy and Environment Research Center (EERC), recent pilot tests at NCCC and EERC have verified that a large reduction in energy consumption for CO2 capture can be realized.

To further improve design and reduce capital cost, Hitachi is working with SaskPower to build a large, 120-ton CO2/day test facility which will begin testing in 2014. Also with SaskPower, Hitachi is supplying a 160-MW steam turbine for the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project.

The Boundary Dam Project is one of the first and largest CCS demonstration projects in the world, and the new Hitachi steam turbine is one of the first designed specifically for optimized integration of a coal-fired power plant with a carbon capture system.

Once again, equipment suppliers and developers are doing their part to get the technologies ready.

The power industry professionals are resilient, resourceful and responsible for our environment. Given real and workable regulations and an opportunity to work like true engineers, we will come up with solutions to keep the lights on, the economy going and the kitchen cool.

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