2004 Executive Forecast

Industry leaders from different sectors offer their predictions about trends in the environmental industry

If your personal crystal ball is getting foggy, you'd better hang on to this issue of Environmental Protection. (Plus, you'll probably want to steer your fellow environmental professionals to this online version of this issue, if they don't have their own copies.) This month we turn futuristic, offering bold, insightful visions from several leaders in the environmental field about what they see this New Year bringing us.

It's time for Nostradamus to step aside. Our Nostraexecs don their soothsayers' robes and turn their piercing eyes to subjects ranging from the importance of innovation in pollution control technology to Internet-based compliance tools. We encourage you to check out these executives' predictions about key events impacting our industry.

The Future of Pollution Control Equipment Manufacturing
By Stephen Rowe

Current regulatory and economic environments have converged to influence the future of controlling nitrogen oxides (Nox) in the two largest regional markets -- Europe and North America. To meet both pollution reduction requirements and plant performance goals, these markets are demanding a more cost-effective, in-process approach, which optimizes the combustion system to prevent emission generation.

This demand is driving significant research and development investment for new in-process technologies, which ultimately will reduce the need for the long entrenched post-combustion control technologies, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR) solutions. While these solutions effectively reduce NOX emissions, alternative technologies focused on pollution prevention are achieving the same results with added financial benefits and improved performance. Several next-generation combustion optimization techniques not only reduce emissions of NOx, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, but also improve boiler efficiency and reliability.

Today, Europe and North America represent 70 percent of the global market for environmental monitoring and control solutions. While regulations differ in each of these regions, the need for pollution control and demand for innovative technologies are very much the same.

The European utilities recently implemented the Large Combustion Plant Directive, requiring the reduction of NOX from coal-fired electric generating units to 500 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) by 2008 and to 200 mg/m3 by 2015. The 2008 emissions limits can be achieved with a variety of in-process control solutions, including reburn, low NOX burners (LNB), combustion optimization and over-fired air. Recent advancements in these technologies combined with emergent technologies, such as advanced sorbent injections, currently can attain the 2015 limits in many applications and will continue to gain ground on the incumbent SCR as the market opportunity expands.

Pending U.S. regulations and legislation -- including the 8-Hour Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard and the Clear Skies Act -- will drive a continued requirement to reduce allowable NOX generation for existing sources. Since 85 percent of the large -- greater than 300 megawatt (MW) facilities -- concentrated sources of NOX already have been controlled through LNB and SCR solutions, the major utilities are shifting their focus to identifying the most economical solutions for the mid-sized NOX sources, which range from 100 MW to 300 MW. On a dollar-per-ton basis, the most economical solution for achieving the umbrella requirements for the foreseeable future involves integrated in-process technologies.

As more and more utilities realize the apparent financial and operational advantages of existing and emerging combustion and optimization technologies, the selection of future of NOX control will clearly favor these techniques. Market demand for cost-effective in-process solutions inevitably will decrease the need for manufacturing pollution control equipment.

Stephen Rowe is general manager for GE Power System's Environmental Services Group. He can be reached by phone at (770)859.6592 or by via e-mail at stephen.rowe@ps.ge.com

The 'Spell Check' for Title V
By Lawrence Goldenhersh, JD

Using simple spreadsheets or PC-based databases like Microsoft® Excel or Access to attempt to manage permit obligations under Title V of the Clean Air Act is like typing a letter without the benefit of spell check. Sure, the letter can be painstakingly reviewed, word by word, a dictionary can be consulted and, in the end, the letter might even be error free. Of course, the better option is to take advantage of very inexpensive word processing tools, like Microsoft Word, that will automatically indicate when a word is misspelled so you avoid the embarrassment of sending a document with mistakes.

The massive compliance documentation increase imposed by Title V has effectively transformed environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals from letter writers to novelists: instead of merely tracking the responses to noncompliance events, managers are now required to track all compliance activities and to certify under oath that "all words are spelled correctly."

Removing the Burden of Old Technology
Just as Microsoft Word can be used to automate spell check, EHS professionals now have tools at their disposal automatically to check air emissions data and information. Managers are able to replace Excel and Access with no-risk, cost-effective, Internet-based tools that automate the burdensome data analysis review process. With a system like Enviance, for example, you are assured that every data point entered is automatically compared with allowable ranges. If data entered are outside of the range, data investigation notices are issued and automatic tasks are triggered to a predetermined person or group of people. These tasks are managed through the automated issuance of reminders of upcoming deadlines and alerts for overdue tasks. It's just like spell check for environmental compliance -- making sure you are aware of the spelling error or potential deviation -- until it's resolved.

Low Cost and No Risk
The costs and risks of using spell check are low; the same holds true for Internet-based tools. They can be piloted without risk, including career risk. No hardware or software to buy and no untested, time-consuming, client-server implementation to tackle; these type of systems can be accessed right through the user's computer via the Internet.

Because managers recognize that the consequences of "missing a spelling error" in their Title V reports is significant, we expect this coming year to bring a dramatically increased use of Internet-based systems.

Would you think of sending a document that wasn't spell checked? Then, why would you risk submitting your Title V reports that way?

Lawrence Goldenhersh, JD, is the founder, president and CEO of Enviance Inc., a Carlsbad, Calif.-based environmental technology company. Prior to founding Enviance, he was a partner at the Los Angeles law firm of Irell & Manella, where his practice included the representation of information technology companies in intellectual property litigation. He can be reached via e-mail at lgoldenhersh@enviance.com

Innovation - The Key to Future Success
By Mark West

Over the last several years a number of well-known air pollution control companies have closed their doors. There are a couple more that are on the ragged edge of doing the same. These are companies that led the industry not long ago. So what happened? Some could argue that it was due to the overall economic decline that followed the events of September 11, but I think it had more to do with their lack of continued innovation and new product development.

The air pollution control equipment market is full of too many products. Buyers usually see this as a good competitive environment to receive better pricing. Unfortunately, many of these products are offered by resurrected versions of the old companies that just closed their doors. So the buyers are not getting new products or new ideas, but recycled products that have been around for 25 years. I don't think of this as progress and I am not convinced the newly resurrected companies will last long enough to service the customers. Typically, the "me too" crowd must offer unbelievable guarantees and warranties to differentiate their offerings from the other similar manufacturers.

Once again, the buyer thinks this is quite a deal with not only competitive pricing, but unbelievable warranties to go with it. These unbelievable warranties are what drove many of the industry leaders out of business when they were forced to honor just a handful of their promises.

Companies that will lead the marketplace in 2004 and beyond will be the ones that continue to innovate and invest in research and development. The leaders will be the companies that invest for the future and try to add value beyond the status quo. The industry's top companies will also have a strong international presence so that they can continue to serve their customers as they expand their manufacturing capacity overseas. The leaders will leave the copycat crowd behind, and will offer better products with tangible advantages.

Mark West is division general manager at EISENMANN Corp.. He can be reached via e-mail at mark.west@eisenmann.com

And, now for an opinion with a humorous twist:

Top Ten Reasons the Environment Will Decline in 2004
By Hal Alper

10. Runaway consumerism

9. Continued dependence on hydrocarbons

8. Countries which believe that whale research is best conducted over a hot grill with a little wasabi on the side

7. Export of manufacturing to polluting countries

6. Two words: Dub-ya

5. Genetically engineered food and seeds

4. People who consume parts of endangered species in order to enhance their sagging virility

3. Drug companies that supply Viagra instead of AZT to third world countries

2. More intense storms caused by green house warming

1. Rush Limbaugh returns from rehab

Hal Alper is a chemist, inventor and cofounder of MYCELX Technologies, Gainesville, Ga. He has formulated more than 40 commercial and industrial products currently in use in the areas of polymer chemistry, electrochemistry, circuit board fabrication and pollution remediation. He can be reached by telephone at (888)306.6843, extension 12, or via e-mail at lab@mycelx.com.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2004 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Angela Neville, JD, REM, is the former editorial director of Environmental Protection.

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