Scrubber Retrofits at Existing Coal Plants

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

SO2 Pollution and Pollution Controls

In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which regulated the emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2), among other forms of pollution. SO2 contributes strongly to acid rain, and causes or exacerbates respiratory illnesses. However, the legislation allowed for exemptions for older power plants. This legislation has been strengthened since then: in 1977, the New Source Review increased compliance by states, while the EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule, passed in 2005, requires a 57% cut in U.S. SO2 emissions by 2015. (Roughly 60% of U.S. SO2 emissions come from coal-fired power plants.) Especially since 2005, many utilities have begun attaching SO2 scrubbers to their coal-fired generating stations. However, many plants still do not have adequate - or even any - SO2 controls.[1][2][3]

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the following proportions of coal-fired power plants with capacity over 100 MW had SO2 scrubbers in 2005:[4]

SO2 Removal Rate # of Plants Total Capacity
Over 90% 94 46,734 MW
80-89% 49 21,613 MW
70-79% 52 20,950 MW
16-69% 11 3,825 MW
None 628 220,664 MW


It is possible that some coal-fired plants with SO2 scrubbers did not report their scrubbers to the EIA, and thus that the above table overstates the number of plants without SO2 controls. However, out of 257 U.S. coal-fired power plants which produced more than 2,000 GWh of power in 2006, 86 had SO2 emissions that were higher than 10 lb/MWh – compared with an average of 1 lb/MWh for coal plants with state-of-the-art SO2 scrubbers.[5][6] We can surmise that these 86 plants almost certainly have zero or extremely minimal SO2 scrubbers, or have SO2 scrubbers that were not functioning in 2006.

A more recent survey (June 2008) of coal-fired power plants conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency found that 209,000 MW out of 329,000 MW of capacity, or 63.5%, had no scrubbers. Of the 120,000 MW fitted with scrubbers, 104,000 MW represented wet fluidized gas disposal systems and 16,200 MW represented dry fluidized gas disposal systems.[7]

The following table summarizes the findings of the EPA survey (June 2008):[7]

Scrubber Status (2008) No Scrubbers Scrubbers Total
Number of Plants 351 146 497
Number of Generating Units 990 290 1,280
Capacity (MW) 209,000 120,000 329,000


In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency released projections about future scrubber systems at coal-fired power plants. The following table shows the EPA's projections for scrubbers in 2009 and 2010. The reason that the total capacity represented by these figures is lower than the figures shown above (316,000 MW in 2009 and 318,000 MW in 2010, compared to the 329,000 MW shown above for of capacity survey in 2008), is that these figures are based on a database that uses summer and winter capacity rather than nameplate capacity. [7]

Scrubber Status Capacity Without Scrubbers (MW) Capacity With Scrubbers (MW) Total Capacity (MW)
2009 (projected) 159,000 157,000 316,000
2010 (projected) 134,000 184,000 318,000


The following table summarizes the data from EPA's 2008 survey and 2009/2010 projections:

Year Percent of Coal Capacity with Scrubbers
2008 (actual) 36%
2009 (projected) 50%
2010 (projected) 58%


Estimated scrubber retrofits resulting from the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

The following list is based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) current draft estimates of announced sulfur dioxide (SO2) control technologies (i.e. scrubber) to be installed at coal plants as a result of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), a review of trade press announcements of scrubber installations and discussions with individual States. This list was last updated in July of 2008. These operations and construction upgrades must be fully evaluated by the EPA and must also be considered in the context of recent court decisions.[8]

Coal Plants and Scrubber Retrofits

Plant State Plant Online Year Srubber Type Scrubber Online Year
Jeffrey Energy Center Kansas 1978 Wet Scrubber 2014
Fort Martin Power Station West Virginia 1968 unknown scrubber type unknown
James H Miller Jr (burner 1) Alabama 1978 Wet Scrubber 2011
James H Miller Jr (burner 2) Alabama 1985 Wet Scrubber 2011
James H Miller Jr (burner 3) Alabama 1989 Wet Scrubber 2011
James H Miller Jr (burner 4) Alabama 1991 Wet Scrubber 2011
Cape Fear (burner 5) North Carolina 1956 Dry Scrubber 2011
Baldwin Energy (burner 1) Illinois 1970 Wet Scrubber 2011
Baldwin Energy (burner 2) Illinois 1973 Wet Scrubber 2011
Baldwin Energy (burner 3) Illinois 1975 Wet Scrubber 2011
Scherer (burner 3) Georgia 1987 Wet Scrubber 2011
Milton R Young (burner 1) North Dakota 1970 Wet Scrubber 2011
W H Sammis (burner 6) Ohio 1969 Wet Scrubber 2011
W H Sammis (burner 7) Ohio 1971 Wet Scrubber 2011
PSEG Hudson Generating Station (burner 2) New Jersey 1967 Dry Scrubber 2011
John Sevier (burner 1) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2011
John Sevier (burner 2) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2011
John Sevier (burne 3) Tennessee 1956 Wet Scrubber 2011
John Sevier (burner 4) Tennessee 1957 Wet Scrubber 2011
Beech Hollow Power (burner 1) Pennsylvania 2011 Wet Scrubber 2011
Longview Power (burner 1) West Virginia 2011 Wet Scrubber 2011
Cliffside (burner 6) North Carolina 2011 Wet Scrubber 2011
AES Greenidge (burner 5) New York 1950 Dry Scrubber 2010
AES Greenidge (burner 6) New York 1950 Dry Scrubber 2010
E C Gaston (burner 5) Alabma 1974 Wet Scrubber 2010
Warrick (burner 4) Indiana 1970 Wet Scrubber 2010
Coffeen (burner 1) Illinois 1965 Wet Scrubber 2010
Coffeen (burner 2) Illinois 1972 Wet Scrubber 2010
Cardinal (burner 3) Ohio 1977 Wet Scrubber 2010
Brandon Shores (burner 1) Maryland 1984 Wet Scrubber 2010
Brandon Shores (burner 2) Maryland 1991 Wet Scrubber 2010
Monroe (burner 4) Michigan 1974 Wet Scrubber 2010
Cliffside (burner 5) North Carolina 1972 Wet Scrubber 2010
Crystal River (burner 4) Florida 1982 Wet Scrubber 2010
Bowen (burner 1) Georgia 1971 Wet Scrubber 2010
Crist (burner 6) Florida 1970 Wet Scrubber 2010
Crist (burner 7) Florida 1973 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 1) Indiana 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 2) Indiana 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 3) Indiana 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 4) Indiana 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 5) Indiana 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Clifty Creek (burner 6) Indiana 1956 Wet Scrubber 2010
Chalk Point (burner 1) Maryland 1964 Wet Scrubber 2010
Chalk Point (burner 2) Maryland 1965 Wet Scrubber 2010
Dickerson (burner 1) Maryland 1959 Wet Scrubber 2010
Dickerson (burner 2) Maryland 1960 Wet Scrubber 2010
Dickerson (burner 3) Maryland 1962 Wet Scrubber 2010
R E Burger (burner 7) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
R E Burger (burner 8) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kyger Creek (burner 1) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kyger Creek (burner 2) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kyger Creek (burner 3) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kyger Creek (burner 4) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kyger Creek (burner 5) Ohio 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Cheswick (burner 1) Pennsylvania 1970 Wet Scrubber 2010
PSEG Mercer Generating Station (burner 1) New Jersey 1960 Dry Scrubber 2010
PSEG Mercer Generating Station(burner 2) New Jersey 1961 Dry Scrubber 2010
Silver Lake (burner 4) Minnesota 1969 Dry Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 1) Tennessee 1954 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 2) Tennessee 1954 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 3) Tennessee 1954 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (buner 4) Tennessee 1954 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 5) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 6) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 7) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 8) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Kingston (burner 9) Tennessee 1955 Wet Scrubber 2010
Sioux (burner 1) Missouri 1967 Wet Scrubber 2010
Sioux (burner 2) Missouri 1968 Wet Scrubber 2010
Chesterfield (burner 5) Virginia 1964 Wet Scrubber 2010
Yorktown (burner 1) Virginia 1957 Wet Scrubber 2010
AES Westover (burner 11) New York 1943 Dry Scrubber 2010
AES Westover (burner 12) New York 1943 Dry Scrubber 2010
Iatan (burner 2) Missouri 2010 Wet Scrubber 2010
Southwest (burner 2) Missouri 2010 Wet Scrubber 2010
Trimble Station (LGE) (burner 2) Kentucky 2010 Wet Scrubber 2010
Elm Road Generating (burner 2) Wisconsin 2010 Wet Scrubber 2010
Cholla (burner 3) Arizona 1980 Wet Scrubber 2009
Mayo (burner 1a) North Carolina 1983 Wet Scrubber 2009
Mayo (burner 1b) North Carolina 1983 Wet Scrubber 2009
Conesville (burner 4) Ohio 1973 Wet Scrubber 2009
G G Allen (burner 1) North Carolina 1957 Wet Scrubber 2009
G G Allen (burner 2 North Carolina 1957 Wet Scrubber 2009
G G Allen (burner 3) North Carolina 1959 Wet Scrubber 2009
G G Allen (burner 4) North Carolina 1960 Wet Scrubber 2009
G G Allen (burner 5) North Carolina 1961 Wet Scrubber 2009
H L Spurlock (burner 1) Kentucky 1977 Wet Scrubber 2009
Crystal River Deerhaven Generating (burner 1) Florida 1984 Wet Scrubber 2009
Station (burner 2) Florida 1981 Wet Scrubber 2009
Bowen (burner 2blr) Georgia 1972 Wet Scrubber 2009
Wansley (burner 2) Georgia 1978 Wet Scrubber 2009
E W Brown (burner 1) Kentucky 1957 Wet Scrubber 2009
E W Brown (burner 2) Kentucky 1963 Wet Scrubber 2009
E W Brown (burner 3) Kentucky 1971 Wet Scrubber 2009
Ghent (burner 2) Kentucky 1977 Wet Scrubber 2009
Fayette Power Project (burner 1) Texas 1979 Wet Scrubber 2009
Fayette Power Project (burner 2) Texas 1980 Wet Scrubber 2009
Morgantown Generating Plant (burner 1) Maryland 1970 Wet Scrubber 2009
Morgantown Generating Plant (burner 2) Maryland 1971 Wet Scrubber 2009
PPL Brunner Island (burner 1) New York 1961 Wet Scrubber 2009
PPL Brunner Island (burner 2) New York 1965 Wet Scrubber 2009
Keystone (burner 1) Pennsylvania 1967 Wet Scrubber 2009
Keystone (burner 2) Pennsylvania 1968 Wet Scrubber 2009
Bull Run (burner 1) Tennessee 1967 Wet Scrubber 2009
Bay Shore (burner 4) Ohio 1968 Wet Scrubber 2009
Hatfields Ferry Power (burner 1) Pennsylvania 1969 Wet Scrubber 2009
Hatfields Ferry Power (burner 2) Pennsylvania 1970 Wet Scrubber 2009
Hatfields Ferry Power (burner 3) Pennsylvania 1971 Wet Scrubber 2009
Nebraska City Unit 2 (burner 2) Nebraska 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Cross (burner 4) South Carolina 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Springerville (burner 4) Arizona 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Sandow 5 (burner 5) Texas 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Oak Grove (burner 1) Texas 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Oak Grove (burner 2) Texas 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
TS Power Plant (burner 1) Nevada 2009 Dry Scrubber 2009
Plum Point Energy (burner 1) Arkansas 2009 Dry Scrubber 2009
Comanche (burner 3) Colorado 2009 Dry Scrubber 2009
Elm Road Generating (burner 1) Wisconsin 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Two Elk Generating (burner 1) Wyoming 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
J K Spruce (burner 2) Texas 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Dallman (burner 34) Illinois 2009 Wet Scrubber 2009
Charles R Lowman (burner 1) Alabama 1969 Wet Scrubber 2008
John E Amos (burner 1) West Virginia 1971 Wet Scrubber 2008
John E Amos (burner 2) West Virginia 1972 Wet Scrubber 2008
Cholla (burner 3) Arizona 1981 Wet Scrubber 2008
Roxboro (burner 1) North Carolina 1966 Wet Scrubber 2008
Roxboro(burner 3a) North Carolina 1973 Wet Scrubber 2008
Roxboro (burner 3b) North Carolina 1973 Wet Scrubber 2008
Miami Fort (burner 7) Ohio 1975 Wet Scrubber 2008
Miami Fort (burner 8) Ohio 1978 Wet Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Virginia Leasing Corporation (burner 2a) Virginia 1988 Dry Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Virginia Leasing Corporation (burner 2b) Virginia 1988 Dry Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Virginia Leasing Corporation (burner 2c) Virginia 1988 Dry Scrubber 2008
J M Stuart (burner 1) Ohio 1971 Wet Scrubber 2008
J M Stuart (burner 2) Ohio 1970 Wet Scrubber 2008
J M Stuart (burner 3) Ohio 1972 Wet Scrubber 2008
J M Stuart (burner 4) Ohio 1974 Wet Scrubber 2008
Monroe (burner 3) Michigan 1973 Wet Scrubber 2008
Belews Creek (burner 1) North Carolina 1974 Wet Scrubber 2008
Belews Creek (burner 2) North Carolina 1975 Wet Scrubber 2008
Bowen (burner 3blr) Georgia 1974 Wet Scrubber 2008
Bowen (burner 4blr) Georgia 1975 Wet Scrubber 2008
Hammond (burner 1) Georgia 1954 Wet Scrubber 2008
Hammond (burner 2) Georgia 1954 Wet Scrubber 2008
Hammond (burner 3) Geogia 1955 Wet Scrubber 2008
Hammond (burner 4) Georgia 1970 Wet Scrubber 2008
Wansley (burner 1) Georgia 1976 Wet Scrubber 2008
Harding Street (burner 70) Indiana 1973 Wet Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Hopewell (burner 1a) Virginia 1987 Dry Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Hopewell (burner 1b) Virginia 1987 Dry Scrubber 2008
Cogentrix Hopewell (burner 1c) Virginia 1987 Dry Scrubber 2008
Ghent (burner 4) Kentucky 1984 Wet Scrubber 2008
Council Bluffs (burner 3) Iowa 1978 Dry Scrubber 2008
PPL Brunner Island (burner 3) Pennsylvania 1969 Wet Scrubber 2008
PPL Montour (burner 1) Pennsylvania 1972 Wet Scrubber 2008
PPL Montour (burner 2) Pennsylvania 1973 Wet Scrubber 2008
Comanche (burner 1) Colorado 1973 Dry Scrubber 2008
Comanche (burner 2) Colorado 1975 Dry Scrubber 2008
Cayuga (burner 2) Indiana 1972 Wet Scrubber 2008
Winyah (burner 1) South Carolina 1975 Wet Scrubber 2008
Winyah (burner 2) South Carolina 1977 Wet Scrubber 2008
Winyah (burner 3) South Carolina 1980 Wet Scrubber 2008
Chesterfield (burner 6) Virginia 1969 Wet Scrubber 2008
Brayton Point (burner 1) Massachusetts 1963 Dry Scrubber 2008
Brayton Point (burner 2) Massachusetts 1964 Dry Scrubber 2008
Weston (burner 4) Wisconsin 2008 Dry Scrubber 2008

Economic Study Supports Coal Plant Phase-Outs Over Retrofits

In March of 2010 Natural Capitalism Solutions, an environmental advocacy group based in Longmont, Colorado, released a report that favored phasing out existing coal plants over retrofitting them with scrubber technology. The report titled, “Coal Plants in Transition: An Economic Case Study,” provided a “proof of concept” for utilities to consider as they evaluate investments in new generation capacity and upgrades to existing facilities.

“We are quickly entering a water- and carbon-constrained world, and we wanted to look at what options might be available to utility managers and other energy providers,” said Paul Sheldon, a senior consultant at Natural Capitalism Solutions and the report’s main author. “We believe that these findings represent a business approach for energy managers to consider as they are faced with difficult decisions regarding the future of their facilities. We’ve shown that this approach allows them to maintain reliability and still profit in their transition to 21st century energy technologies.”[9]

Using the 35-year old, 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz. as a case study, the group's analysis examined the costs and benefits of the plant’s future. As with many aging power plants nationwide, Navajo is due for upgrades necessary for it to comply with the EPA's pollution and air quality regulations. The report notes that retrofits can entail substantial costs, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The report states that such facilities, in order to protect jobs and move in a more environmentally safe direction, will be more profitable by abandoning retrofit plans and instead embracing a full range of clean energy resources, including wind, photovoltaic and concentrated solar, geothermal, and biomass, combined with large-scale supply and demand- side efficiency measures.[10]

References

  1. A Timeline of the Clean Air Act, Environmental Defense Fund, accessed April 2008.
  2. "Utilities amassing landfills: Tougher air standards send tons of plants' sludge, coal ash into ground", Columbus Dispatch, April 14, 2008.
  3. Coal Combustion Residues and Mercury Control, EPA Interim Report on the Control of Mercury Admissions from Coal-Fired Electric Boilers, April 2002.
  4. Form EIA-767 Database, Energy Information Administration website, 2005.
  5. Dirty Kilowatts 2007 Report Database, Environmental Integrity Project, accessed May 2008.
  6. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007, p. 8.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category: 2007/2008 Detailed Study Report," U.S Environmental Protection Agency, August 2008, Table 3-1, page 3-9
  8. EPA Scrubber and SCR Retrofit Data Natural Resource Defense Council, accessed November 17, 2009
  9. "Transition from Coal to Clean Energy Makes Good Business Sense" Natural Capitalism Solutions Press Release, March 4, 2010.
  10. "Coal Plants in Transition: An Economic Case Study" Natural Capitalism Solutions, March 2010.

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