An Alberta company is commercializing its technology to significantly reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants at a Kentucky facility, as part of the United States’ push toward “clean coal” electricity.
Airborne Pollution Control of Calgary is a partner in the project with LG&E Energy Corp. of Kentucky.
In one of eight first-round proposals selected by the U.S. Department of Energy, LG&E will receive $31 million US to use Airborne’s multi-pollutant control process at Kentucky Utilities’ Ghent Generating Station.
Coal-fired power plants generate about 70 per cent of Alberta’s electricity, more than 50 per cent of power used in North America and more than 33 per cent of the world’s total power.
Construction of a five-megawatt pilot plant using Airborne’s technology at the Ghent generating station is complete and the plant is being tested, says Leonard Seidman, a spokesman for Airborne in Calgary.
“Everything that we’re doing has been proven, everything works,” he said. “But the idea is to bring it all together at once and make sure it works.”
Data from the pilot plant’s operation will be collected for a couple of months, enabling a detailed engineering study to finalize the capital and operating costs of a commercial-scale plant – expected to be up and running by 2007, he said.
The patented Airborne Process employs dry and wet sodium bicarbonate (a compound similar to household baking soda) scrubbing to reduce polluting emissions of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and mercury.
Unlike other pollution-scrubbing methods, the sodium bicarbonate is regenerated in the process, which reduces operating costs and waste.
Laboratory tests performed in a combustion unit at the CANMET Energy Technology Centre in Ottawa show Airborne’s process can reduce sulphur oxides by at least 98 per cent and nitrogen oxides by 70 per cent, Seidman says.
Figures on how much mercury can be reduced will be collected during the pilot plant’s operation at the Ghent station.
Seidman said that Airborne’s process is also on the short list of technologies being considered by the Clean Power Coalition of Canada (CCPC), for use in what would be Canada’s first “clean coal” power plant.
The plant would eliminate up to 95 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, along with pollutants such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and mercury.
The CCPC, whose Alberta members include TransAlta, EPCOR, ATCO Power, Luscar and the provincial government, expects to complete its assessment of which technology or technologies to use in a clean coal power plant by the end of May.
It will cost up to $1 billion to build a pilot demonstration plant by 2010.
Airborne’s scrubbing system is used in conjunction with the company’s process for producing a high-grade, granulated fertilizer byproduct.
The company has a 10-year agreement with the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan to store, distribute and market the fertilizer worldwide, Seidman said.