Reducing Mercury Emissions from Coal Combustion in the Energy Sector

Objectives of the project

  • Develop guidance material on how to minimize mercury releases by optimizing multi-pollutant control techniques, including improved energy efficiency, to reduce mercury-emissions;
  • Collecting information to improve accuracy of future emissions inventories for the sector, including technical information on power plants and control technologies used, analysis of mercury concentrations in coals used by power plants and measurements of mercury in stack flue gases;
  • Implementing studies to demonstrate the efficiency of multi-pollutant, other pollutant control techniques or mercury specific control techniques in capturing mercury and build local/national capacity on these issues, also with the aim of transferring information and lessons learnt to facilities and governments in other countries.

Collected results will be used to inform the global negotiations on mercury. The project is funded by the European Union over three years (2009-2011).

Target countries

The action is focused on China, India, Russia and South Africa, but the results will be of interest to all countries with coal combustion power plants.

Project activity 1: Develop guidance material, the Process Optimization Guidance (POG) Document, to reduce mercury emissions from coal combustion.

The POG summarizes practices capable of providing reduction of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The POG is a tool to help determine the approaches to control mercury emissions for individual coal-fired power plants, allowing for a preliminary selection of a mercury control strategy.

This POG may also assist governments in evaluating the opportunities to achieve multi-pollutant emission reductions, such as SO2, NOx, PM, and mercury emissions, including improved energy efficiency. The POG focus on providing guidance on how to optimize other pollutants controls to achieve the co-benefits of reduced mercury emissions.

To include specific experience in the targeted countries, workshops on the POG has been held in Russia, China and South Africa. The POG was presented to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee developing a global convention on mercury in January, 2011. (See final POG below).

An interactive electronic decision tree (iPOG) will be prepared as a downloadable interactive programme. This will involve the development of an easy access, intuitive graphics-user interface to allow the user to input plant and coal-specific data into a modelling programme. The tool will allow users to select conditions (coal type, combustor type, air pollution control equipment, mercury emission control level desired, etc.). Following the selection, the tool will calculate baseline mercury emission levels and then provide preferred approaches to mercury emission control strategy as well as expected resultant level of mercury emission control.

Project activity 2: Improve mercury emission inventories and related information.

The coal combustion energy sector will be characterized, and information on coal types used will be collected, including information on mercury content in coal. Coal samples will in this connection be analyzed with regard to mercury content. To the extent possible, measurement of mercury in stack flue gases at representative sites will be carried out. The collected information will be used to improve existing emissions factors and these will be used to develop a new inventory of mercury emissions for the sector in the targeted countries.

Project activity 3: Promote emissions reductions through demonstration projects and other related actions.

Activities will be implemented that are targeted towards achieving mercury emission reductions, promoting process optimization through implementation of POG based projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technologies at facility level.

Progress (27 February 2011)

Data collection has been finalized in Russia, China and South Africa. Mercury emissions inventories are being developed. Work in India will start in March 2011. Russia, South Africa and possibly India will carry out demonstration projects. The work in China has focused on providing best possible information on coal combustion in the power sector (see final report).

We have cooperated with the US Environmental Protection Agency (in-kind contribution) on carrying out mercury measurements in power plants in Russia, South Africa. The US Geological Study is also providing in-kind support for analysis of mercury in coal and ash samples. Only a limited number of measurements of mercury concentration in stack flue gases were previously done in the involved countries. Additional mercury measurements have strengthened the project substantially.