A Potential Solution to Mercury Emissions

The overwhelming need to reduce mercury pollution has been a focal point for environmental activists and government regulators alike. Even the Bush Administration has called for a gradual 70% nationwide reduction in mercury emissions. For the most part, these reductions were to be achieved through the implementation of cap and trade policies similar to those used in efforts to combat sulfur dioxide emissions. However, there is significant doubt as to whether the power companies have the ability or the money to hit the 90% reduction targets that will be imposed by states such as Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota in 2015. As a result, power companies are scrambling to develop technologies that would essentially strip mercury from the emissions generated through the incineration of coal. One such method called Toxecon has been tested over the last year at the Presque Isle generating facility in Michigan. The system, which is reported to reduce mercury emissions by up to 90%, injects activated, powdery carbon into the gas generated by the coal incineration. The carbon subsequently absorbs the mercury and creates an ash like substance, which then flows into a "bag house" where it is captured inside rows upon rows of fabric bags. The bags are then shipped to landfills. The system also offers an added bonus of removing up to 70% of the sulfur dioxide and 30% of the nitrogen oxide from the gas. Although this technology has been fairly successful at Presque Isle, a principal technical manager with the Electric Power Research Institute warns that Toxecon is not a uniform solution to mercury emissions. Power plants use different designs and variety of coal types which might require different solutions.