Release Date: June 18, 2001
|Meeting Mercury Standards
DOE Selects 6 Projects to Develop Cost-Saving Technologies for Curbing Mercury Emissions from Coal Power Plants
MORGANTOWN, WV - With President Bush's National Energy Plan calling for mandatory reductions in the release of mercury from electric power plants - part of the Plan's multi-pollutant reduction strategy - the U.S. Department of Energy today named six new projects to develop innovative technologies that can curb mercury emissions from coal plants more effectively and at a fraction of today's costs.
The winning projects were submitted by the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks; URS Group. Inc., of Austin, TX; CONSOL, Inc., of Library, PA; Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, AL; Powerspan Corp., of Durham, NH; and Apogee Scientific, Inc., of Englewood, CO.
"The cutting-edge projects we are announcing today provide a dual benefit - they can help safeguard the health of Americans while ensuring that we can continue to use our nation's abundant supplies of coal to generate affordable electricity," said Secretary Spencer Abraham. "The National Energy Policy calls for this type of technological ingenuity to meet many of the nation's energy and environmental goals."
If the new technologies are successful, they could save ratepayers billions of dollars. For example, if utilities were required to use only today's technology to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent, as much as $7 billion per year could be added to consumers' electric bills. The Energy Department hopes that new technology can cut those costs at least in half and perhaps by as much as one-fourth by the end of this decade.
For some coal-fired power plants, new technology will be essential. No pollution control system on the market today reduces mercury emissions uniformly across the full spectrum of power plant configurations. The effectiveness of today's emission controls can range from 90 percent to virtually zero.
The department wants to develop a wider array of mercury control options for power plants that can reliably reduce emissions by 50 to 70 percent by 2005 and 90 percent by 2010. Many of the new technologies would tie in mercury controls with processes that reduce other air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Although it exists only in trace amounts in coal, mercury is released when coal burns and can accumulate on land and in water. Bacteria transform the mercury into a hazardous form that can collect in fish and marine mammals.
Last December, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that sufficient concerns existed over the toxic effects of mercury on the nervous systems of humans and wildlife to require coal-fired utilities to control the release of mercury from power plants.
EPA has until December, 2003, to propose a rule requiring mercury emissions to be reduced from coal-fired plants. A year later, the agency must issue a final rule, and utilities would have until December 2007 to comply.
Last month, the National Energy Policy Development Group recommended that President Bush direct EPA to propose new multi-pollutant legislation. The legislation would establish "a flexible, market-based program to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from electric power generators."
Last August the department selected two companies to test full-scale advanced mercury control technologies at several of the nation's coal-burning power plants. With the six new projects, the department is looking farther into the future at more novel concepts in earlier stages of development that could provide utilities with a wider range of options.
The six winning proposals, selected by the department's National Energy Technology Laboratory, will receive nearly $8 million in federal funds. The proposers will contribute nearly $2.3 million in cost-sharing. The proposals were submitted by:
|Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646|