With the Environmental Protection Agency expected to decide in December
whether to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning boilers, the U.S.
Department of Energy has kicked off a new effort to develop more affordable
pollution control technologies that can remove mercury from power plant
The Energy Department, through its National Energy Technology Laboratory,
has issued a solicitation offering up to $13 million over three years
for industry proposals on cost-cutting mercury-control methods for coal-based
Currently no technology exists that can uniformly control mercury from
power plant flue gas emissions. The effectiveness of existing flue gas
emission controls in removing mercury can vary considerably from plant
to plant, or even from boiler to boiler. With today's technologies, mercury
removal can range from essentially no control to as high as 90 percent.
The department's goal is to develop more effective options that will
cut mercury emissions 50 to 70 percent by 2005 and 90 percent by 2010
at one-quarter to one-half of current cost estimates.
The Energy Department's action is intended to assist utilities and regulators
determine the most cost-effective pollution control technologies that
could be installed if the Federal government decides to regulate mercury
and other hazardous air pollutants from coal-burning utilities.
The Environmental Protection Agency faces a December 15th
deadline to decide whether it will regulate these emissions. If it decides
to do so, a proposed regulation will be due no later than December 15,
2003, and promulgated the following year. Under this timetable, regulations
would require utility compliance by December 2007 because the Clean Air
Act requires sources to install Maximum Achievable Control Technologies
three years after regulations are promulgated.
The department is seeking proposals for technologies, processes or methods
in the following four categories:
Field testing of sorbents upstream of existing
utility particulate control devices,
Field testing of effective mercury control
technologies upstream of and across flue gas desulfurization systems,
An integrated approach for overall mercury
Testing of novel and less-mature controls
on actual flue gas systems at the pilot-scale.
The department will also consider controls that remove mercury along
with other pollutants, including but not limited to, sulfur trioxide,
carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and hydrogen chloride.
Projects in the first three areas require a 33 percent cost share from
winning companies; a 20 percent cost share is required for projects in
the fourth, more novel category.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory, which manages and implements
DOE's fossil fuel projects, will select projects by two due dates. Proposals
under the first three topics of interest are due on or before April 28,
2000; selections will be made by June 30. Proposals under the fourth area
are due on or before August 31, 2000; projects will be selected by October
The Energy Department has been sponsoring studies on mercury emissions
from coal-based power generators to identify effective and economical
control options. These studies include mercury removal from flue gas by
enhancing conventional pollution controls, identifying combustion modifications
and developing advanced control methods.
This solicitation builds on past DOE and other R&D organizations'
mercury measurement and control efforts by conducting tests of the most
promising methods at a large scale and at utility sites. The large-scale
tests will produce valid information and data to evaluate mercury removal
effectiveness, the economic impact of the control method, and the potential
impact on plant operations. Through this solicitation, DOE intends to
mercury removal by promising control technologies
in large-scale tests at three incremental levels above the baseline
up to the maximum removal possible;
the applicability of mercury control technologies
to multiple power plant configurations including electrostatic precipitators,
baghouses, fabric filters, etc;
the possible negative and positive impacts
to the overall operation of the power plant (including impacts on
by-product sales, waste disposal);
accurate capital and operational cost(s)
at different mercury removal levels over a specified performance period;
the greatest amount of mercury removed at
the least total cost per pound of mercury removed; and
effective sequestration of the captured
mercury in various by-products and waste material.