Clean coal is available now - with environmental opportunities
Balancing energy costs and environmental goals is increasingly difficult, but a number of promising technologies make it possible. These are analyzed by the McIlvaine Company in its "Power Plant Air Quality Decisions" service. Coal-fired plants are being rapidly equipped with pollution control systems -- including for water and wastewater treatment -- but more effective integration of these and other technologies such as heat recovery is required to make them safer and more cost-efficient...
• New and upgraded power plants include enhanced prospects for innovative water, wastewater, heat recovery and other environmental technologies.
NORTHFIELD, IL, Nov. 9, 2006 -- Balancing energy costs with environmental goals is becoming increasingly difficult, but there are a number of promising opportunities -- including water and wastewater treatment systems -- which will make the achievement of this balance possible. These opportunities are analyzed by the McIlvaine Company in its "Power Plant Air Quality Decisions" service.
The reality is 50% of U.S. power is produced in coal-fired plants. These plants are being rapidly equipped with pollution control equipment -- including water and wastewater treatment systems -- which makes these already inefficient plants less efficient. This is because of the power required to operate the pollution control equipment.
One solution is to replace the aging coal-fired plants with new ones. The problem is that there is so much resistance to new plants that utilities find it easier just to bring the existing plants into environmental compliance. The environment would be best served by replacement of the old plant with a new one. The net effect would be a big reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
However, even if old plants are not replaced, a number of new technologies and concepts can make them much more efficient while reducing emissions to very low levels. One example is the manufacture of hydrochloric acid. Presently power plants either discharge this acid in the wastewater or install expensive wastewater treatment systems. Separating and capturing the HCI would not add significantly to the capital cost and would provide a by-product worth $200/ton.
An even bigger opportunity is for the utilities to convert this acid to calcium chloride and to sell it cheaply to the county in which the plant resides. This calcium chloride would be used to reduce the fugitive road dust in the county and would make the utility a net reducer of particulate.
New high temperature filters would allow coal plants to change their processes and produce much more waste heat. By locating ethanol and other operations requiring steam adjacent to the utilities, the greenhouse gas effect would be greatly reduced and the economics of power and steam would be enhanced.
It has long been recognized that there was a big potential for utilizing waste heat from coal plants. The reason they are high on the list of greenhouse producers is the inefficiency caused by the unused waste heat. The problem has been that there was no market for the waste heat. Now with the needs of ethanol producers that market exists. There are other energy intensive industries which can be co-located. Some of these industries have moved off shore because of energy costs. Now they can move back next to coal-fired plants and enjoy the synergies created by waste heat utilization.
A great deal of work is being conducted to design the clean coal plant of the future. But there are opportunities to make the existing fleet of coal plants efficient as well.
The McIlvaine Company (www.mcilvainecompany.com) is based in Northfield, IL, with a staff of 35 people that includes engineers, scientists and market researchers.