Power plant operators around the world are faced with difficult decisions relative to meeting the air quality requirements of the future. The largest challenges have been listed by the McIlvaine Company in its service entitled Power Plant Air Quality Decisions. The top seven most difficult decisions are:

  • When do I retire the existing coal-fired power plant?

  • Should I invest to meet the regulatory requirements of the next few years or for the ones subsequently anticipated?

  • How do I prevent an air pollution problem turning into a water or solid waste problem?

  • When will global warming become significant in decision making?

  • How do I maintain or increase boiler efficiency when I am adding a substantial parasitic load?

  • How do I accurately measure emissions so they will have legal validity?

  • Will any presently non-regulated air pollutants likely be regulated during the lifetime of the boiler in question?

According to McIlvaine, each of these challenges is made difficult by a number of variable factors. Some of the variables McIlvaine associates with each challenge are highlighted here:

Retirement variables
· Cost of electricity from alternatives such as wind, solar, gas
· Electricity demand
· Air, water and other environmental regulations

Matching investments with regulatory requirements
· Cost of incremental vs. holistic investments
· Uncertainty relative to timing of regulations
· Uncertainty relative to severity of regulations

Concerns about contributing to water and solid waste pollution
· Which pollutants will be regulated in water or solids
· What quantities of cross contamination will be generated from each alternative
· Cost of removing these from the water or solids

Global warming variables
· Timing of legislation
· Severity of regulation
· Certainty of evidence

Boiler efficiency concerns
· Parasitic load of anticipated new pollution control systems
· Efficiency increase potential through component upgrades
· Risk of triggering new source review

Emission measurement concerns
· Will limits be set below the detection limit of available instrumentation
· Will a reliable measurement method for condensable particulate be available
· Will measurement of surrogates be acceptable (i.e. particulates for toxic metals)

Potential for new pollutants to be regulated
· Dioxins and organics
· Toxic metals other than mercury
· Acid gases other than HCl
· Carbon monoxide

For more information on McIlvaine”s Power Plant Air Quality Decisions, click here.