EPRI honors Southern Company and Georgia Power's Plant Yates for leadership in mercury emissions control technology

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) presented 2005 Technology Transfer Achievement Awards to Southern Company and the staff and management of Georgia Power's Plant Yates in a ceremony on June 2 at the plant, near Newnan, Ga. These awards recognize the significant contribution Southern Company is making to help the electric generation industry develop and evaluate technologies for controlling mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In addition to recognizing the contributions of the entire plant staff, Hank Courtright, EPRI's Vice President of Generation, especially noted the leadership of Yates Plant Manager Mike Knowles and Senior Compliance Specialist Ken McBee. Knowles and McBee collaborated with EPRI, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and several other utilities to conduct full-scale tests on four technologies, each of which could significantly reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Their contribution is especially timely, as the U.S. EPA has recently issued mercury rules that presume the commercial availability of mercury controls in the near future.

In presenting the awards, EPRI's Courtright praised Southern Company's leadership in advancing the science of mercury emissions control. "The project team and employees of Plant Yates are to be commended for offering their plant, their time and their skills to evaluate and improve not just one mercury control technology, but four," said Courtright. "On behalf of my colleagues at EPRI and the industry at large, I want to thank Plant Yates for their efforts in fostering the development of cost-effective systems for power plants with diverse needs for air pollution controls for nitrous oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulates."

The technologies Knowles and McBee tested at Plant Yates included:

  • Activated carbon injection (ACI) at two units -- These were the first ACI tests on a plant with a small electrostatic precipitator (ESP), an issue of significant concern for the industry. ESPs are used to reduce particulate matter emissions. The tests showed that ACI may not be as effective on plants with small ESPs as it is on plants with large ESPs.

  • EPRI's patented MerCAP(tm) plates -- These were designed to capture mercury in the mist eliminator of the Chiyoda CT-121 scrubber, which is used to remove SO2 emissions. This is a novel approach in a relatively early stage of development, but offers the promise of lower cost mercury removals with significantly less impact on plants.

  • Low-temperature oxidation catalysts -- These catalysts would fit in the back end of an ESP to oxidize a high percentage of the mercury in the flue gas for capture by a downstream SO2 control device (e.g., flue gas desulfurization FGD system). This technology is intended for use at plants that burn coals producing large proportions of elemental mercury and that want to maximize the multi-pollutant capture capabilities of their SO2 control.

  • Additives that could sequester the mercury captured by the SO2 scrubber so it does not attach to the gypsum -- Gypsum, a byproduct of the scrubber, is used for wallboard and to improve the growth of peanuts and other agricultural products.

In addition, Knowles and McBee have agreed to host the first application of EPRI's FGD Monitor -- FGDexpert -- an artificial intelligence tool designed to help plant personnel monitor and troubleshoot FGD performance, anticipate issues, and take corrective action before they become problems, such as emissions violations. It can also be used to train new operators and engineers on the operation of the scrubber. FGDexpert is currently being installed for testing on the Plant Yates scrubber.

The mercury control tests were conducted under contracts with the DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) to perform long-term mercury control technology testing for coal-fired power plants.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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