Coal troubles: As if carbon isn't bad enough


In what is a real-life example of “pick your poison,” coal-burning power plants are dealing with a choice of spewing out sulfur dioxide that results in acid rain, or mercury that contaminates fish and causes birth defects. We won’t even get onto the topic of carbon emissions.

This is manifest in rising levels of mercury in a number of mid-western states, including Illinois, that come from coal-fired power plant stacks. The tradeoff in this case relates to the fact that many of the western coal fields in the Powder River valley have an unfortunate characteristic. While valued for low sulfur content, they have relatively high mercury levels. Much of the coal from Illinois is just the opposite. Federal restrictions on mercury emissions have been bouncing around for a long time and are likely to bounce for some years to come, although individual states are tighter. Sulfur dioxide is more defined, so utilities tend to deal with that first. (Something to think about if you’re hoping the EPA can restrict carbon emissions.)

Mercury, sulfur dioxide, and most other pollutants (other than carbon dioxide) have mature technologies for abatement. It’s not all that hard to reduce mercury by 80% using a combination of flue gas temperature management and powdered carbon injection. A number of plants in Illinois are installing that technology to meet state regulations. These things can be fixed, or at least most of them. It just gets more expensive.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.