Monday, July 11, 2011

Problems with power plant scrubbers? (Updated)

Not only does a lot of coal move on the Ohio River, but a lot of limestone moves on it, too, to feed all those  new billion-dollar scrubbers to clean some of the pollutants out of the stuff that goes up the smokestack. The scrubbers are one reason why the stacks are shorter now than they used to be. The exhaust gasses are heavier and wetter than before, and they don't go up a 1,300-foot stack. It's also why stack emissions are whiter and much more visible than the old faint yellow smoke.

But some scrubbers are having unexpected problems with corrosion, according to this article in the Columbus Dispatch. Read the whole thing, as they say. Here in the Ohio Valley, our residential electric bills have gone up in part to pay for scrubbers. I'm on the AEP system, and it looks like AEP's biggest plants don't have the corrosion problem, but the Mountaineer plant does. Mountaineer is notable because it's the pilot plant for the underground carbon dioxide sequestration experiment.

Not every coal-burning plant in my part of the valley has scrubbers. AEP has decided to mothball some plants ahead of schedule because they're sold old and so small that spending millions or billions on scrubbers cannot be justified from a business standpoint.

This is the Mountaineer plant on a December day. The plant is in Mason County, W.Va., near the townof New Haven. This was taken from Meigs County, Ohio, near the village of Racine.

UPDATE: Here is the article from the EPRI Journal on which the Dispatch article was based.