Lots of options to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants

Paul Boughton

The reality is that any form of energy generation will create some additional greenhouse gases and will add some amount of pollution or negative environmental impact. The challenge is to make the best energy choices with a clear understanding of the positive and negative aspects of each option.

New developments relative to capture and sequestering of CO2 from pulverised coal plants allow even this supposed dirtiest of energy options to become as clean as one can afford.

Developments relative to all the energy options are continually analysed in the Power Plant Knowledge System published by the McIlvaine Company.

FurthermoreMcIlvaine has developed a harm factor rating system which allows normalisation of risks among very different pollutant forms.

Several ongoing projects promise the ability to remove CO2 and other pollutants from the exhaust gases emitted by a pulverised coal-fired power plant at costs of electricity generation lower than or comparable to coal gasification.

SO2particulateand NOx can be reduced to any level. It is just a matter of cost. Even mercury can be reduced to whatever level is required. This is already being demonstrated at waste incinerators in Europe.

The Thoroughbred project involving a big new coal-fired plant in Kentuckyhas been halted on the instructions of a hearing officer to increase SO2 removal efficiency to 99percent from 98percent and to consider coal gasification as an option. This brings the whole energy option debate to a new level.

CO2 and pollutant minimisation can be achieved with pulverised coalcoal gasificationgas turbinesand possibly by wind and/or solar generation.

The annual cost to the rate payer for the lowest polluting route is two to three times as much as he is paying for electricity now. This is probably more than would be tolerated.
Therefore the first question is not which technology to choosebut how much should be spent for minimising pollution? Thisin turngenerates the question as to how much relative harm to assess to one pollutant versus another?

The choice is complex. CO2 potentially could cause big problems decades or centuries from now but may benefit some regions while maximising harm in others. SO3in contrastcan cause immediate acid damage to homes and people within a few miles of a power plant stack.

The most difficult of challenges is to normalise risks to the population of the world in the distant future versus. risks to specific cities in the US now.

McIlvaine has addressed this question in part with a harm factor rating system which compares a ton of each pollutant to a ton of SO2 in terms of potential harm.

For more informationvisit www.mcilvainecompany.com

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