Environmental Protection

GE Releases Modular Version of its ABMet Wastewater Treatment System

GE has introduced a modular version of the company’s ABMet wastewater treatment system. ABMet is a patented biological water treatment system that uses naturally occurring microbes to reduce the amounts of selenium and other metals that can escape from coal mines and power plants and enter U.S. freshwater supplies.

GE’s ABMet process involves running wastewater through a biologically active filter, which is “seeded” with naturally occurring microbes that target selenium and other potentially toxic metals. While selenium is typically difficult to remove from wastewater, ABMet can capture the metal and convert it into an easy-to-treat form.

Most of the initial ABMet systems that have been installed in the United States feature customized designs that enable mining and utility customers to meet their site-specific compliance requirements. However, in response to customers seeking a cost-effective system that could be installed quicker than custom-designed ABMet systems, GE now is offering its bioreactor water treatment product in a scalable, modular format that further reduces installation time and overall project costs.

The new modular ABMet system is particularly well-suited to meet the operational, regulatory and economic priorities of the coal mining industry.

“With coal mine operators and power companies facing increasingly stringent government limits on their emissions, we are offering ABMet to help these crucial industries continue to support our country with vital energy supplies and jobs while also meeting their regulatory obligations to protect freshwater supplies, fish and other wildlife,” said Jeff Connelly, vice president, engineered systems—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water.

“The deployment of new technologies to help the coal industry reduce its environmental impacts also benefits the economies of the United States and Canada,” Connelly noted. For example, many ABMet components are produced in North America, while the fabrication work is largely performed at GE’s water and process technologies plant in Ontario, Canada.

Earlier versions of customized ABMet systems are operating at several mining sites and four coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. In April 2011, GE announced that utility American Electric Power (AEP) would become the third U.S. utility to install an ABMet system at one of its coal-fired power stations to comply with its water permit requirements. AEP is installing ABMet at its Mountaineer power plant in West Virginia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first established a national water quality standard for selenium in 1987. In 2011, the agency is expected to propose a revised limit based on current selenium levels in fish and also is developing revised effluent limitation guidelines for the steam-electric power industry, which are expected to be released in draft form in 2012.

ABMet is certified under ecomagination, GE’s corporatewide commitment to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water.


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