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
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
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:
The Energy & Environmental Research
Center at the University of North Dakota, Grand, Forks, ND, which
will develop an advanced particulate collector that combines the best
features of baghouses and electrostatic precipitators and offers the
potential of removing 90 percent of all mercury emissions released
by a coal-fired combustor.
URS Group. Inc., Austin, TX, which
will test chemical catalysts that can convert mercury into an oxidized
form that can be removed by the flue gas "wet scrubbers"
and particulate collectors now commonplace on many power plants.
CONSOL, Inc., Library, PA, which
will adapt a mercury control system now used on municipal waste incinerators
to function on a coal-fired power plant and remove not only mercury
but also sulfur pollutants that can create visible plumes and contaminate
other pollution control devices.
Southern Research Institute, Birmingham,
AL, which will test the effectiveness of calcium-based chemicals --
such as lime and silica lime additives -- that collect mercury and
oxidize it into a form that can be separated from a power plant's
flue gas. The calcium sorbents also remove sulfur dioxide pollutants.
Powerspan Corp., Durham, NH, which
will also test a multi-pollutant removal system that uses an electrical
discharge to convert mercury to mercuric oxide, nitrogen oxides to
nitric acid, and sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid. In its oxidized
form, mercury can be captured in an electrostatic precipitator along
with other tiny solid particles.
- Apogee Scientific, Inc., Englewood, CO, will study the effectiveness
of up to a dozen carbon-based and other chemicals that show promise
in removing more than 90 percent of mercury and costing 40 to 75 percent
less than commercial sorbents.