Emissions Technologies and Alternative Energies

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

TXU officials say they will use the best available control technologies for coal-burning power plants. Critics of the plant say there aren't technologies in place for critical gases that could negatively affect the atmosphere.

A three-unit power plant looks intimidating at first glance, and made up of several units to create energy, and control the emissions in the process.

"We do everything we can to clean up emissions and the exhaust gases to make it environmentally acceptable," said Mike Fields, TXU Monticello plant director.

TXU officials say the technologies they use primarily targets four types of pollutants:
-Nitrogen Oxide: NOx, a critical component of smog, according to the EPA
-Mercury emissions: the EPA says high levels can harm immune systems neurological developments in unborn fetuses
-Sulfur Dioxide: when SO2 in the air is mixed with water it can cause acid rain, and also respiratory problems
-Particulate Matter: large amounts can also cause respiratory problems

So what does it all mean?

NOx burners are designed to lower burning temperatures by mixing fuel and air in stages. Ammonia is also used to break down the compound into nitrogen and water.

A dry sorbet, typically a paste with carbon enhanced with bromine, is injected to control mercury emissions. The bromine is what collects the mercury to keep it from going into the air.

Units called dry scrubbers desulfurize the coal gas after it's made into energy. Baghouses act like a vacuum cleaner to control particulate matter. The particulate matter ends up in landfills TXU creates on site.

TXU keeps control monitoring rooms to check the levels of each portion of technology. The levels of emissions we observed in the room were substantially lower than federally regulated limits.

"We have a specific control monitoring system...."

Critics of the proposed plants disagree, saying there are cleaner coal technologies TXU isn't using.

"Not only is TXU not proposing the best available control technology because they're building pulverized coal plants," said Tim Greeff, a global warming expert with the National Resource Defense Council. "They're not even using the best technologies of pulverized coal plants."

TXU officials told us they have looked at these technologies, but they aren't developed enough to be used full scale. Greeff says a diverse fuel economy is the best answer to utility bills, and the environment.

This includes efficiency, like Energy Star products, and renewable energy like wind and solar power.

"When we diversify fuel source we aren't depending on one thing..."

Environmentalists are also concerned about cumulative effects of all eleven plants across the state. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials say the emissions dissipate over time, and are dispersed by the wind. They say it's unlikely emissions from other parts of the state will travel far enough to add emissions to our area.

Engineers on both sides of the issue weigh the options of coal-fired power plants all over Texas.


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