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Air Quality Scrubbers Help Coal Plants Move Forward

PrairieStatecoalplantsWhile a retrofit project in Pennsylvania marks a step forward in cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants, a new coal-fired plant under construction in Illinois sparks debate over the use of coal as countries around the world try to curb their emissions to combat global warming.

The Shaw Group Inc.’s Power Group has completed an air quality control retrofit project for PPL Generation LLC’s Brunner Island coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania. The project included the installation of two flue gas desulfurization systems, or scrubbers at the power plant’s three coal-fired generating units, which will remove approximately 90 percent of sulfur-dioxide emissions from the 1,483-MW electric generating capacity.

Shaw also provided engineering services for an electrostatic precipitator retrofit. The retrofit, which significantly reduces particulate emissions from the coal-fired unit, began operation in November 2009.

While working on the Brunner Island retrofit project, Shaw performed similar services for PPL’s Montour power plant. Work at the two projects was performed simultaneously from 2006 until the completion of the Montour project in 2008.

In southwest Illinois, the Prairie State Energy Campus’ coal-fired plant that is under construction is fueling debate over coal as a power source, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The $4-billion project is expected to consume more than 50,000 tons of structural steel, 15,000 tons of steel rebar and 160,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Critics say the plant, which will be the second-largest coal-fired power plant in Illinois, will emit an estimated 10 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants each year, while proponents say the project is providing jobs for 2,500 people, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When completed, the 1,600-megawatt plant will employ an additional 500 people, and provide electricity to as many as 2.5 million people across nine states, as well as create indirect jobs at nearby restaurants, hotels and shops, according to the article.

Prairie State officials say the plant is cleaner than comparable coal power stations and includes the best available environmental controls, including scrubbers that will remove most sulfur dioxide from the emissions, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Prairie State CEO Peter DeQuattro told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that by using coal conveyed from an adjacent mine instead of fuel hauled 1,000 miles by train from northeastern Wyoming it will also cut CO2 emissions by 200,000 tons a year.

DeQuattro also cited coal’s reliability as an energy source along with its cost advantage compared with wind and solar power.

The first 800-megawatt unit will be completed in August 2011, followed by the second 800-megawatt unit in June 2012.

Still, environmental groups believe regulators should have required technology to capture the CO2 emissions, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. DeQuattro told the newspaper that it has hired consultants to study the cost to fit the plant with equipment to capture CO2 emissions, although this type of technology has not been installed on any coal-fired power plants as large as this one.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it is considering labeling coal ash as toxic waste, while the agency moves to regulate mercury emissions at coal-fired power plants.

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