NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                                JULY 2013

Mercury Control Market Could Be $1 Billion Per Year But When?

The market for hardware and consumables to reduce mercury from power plant stacks is likely to exceed $1 billion/yr but the timing keeps changing. This is reflected in the continually updated Utility Mercury Air Reduction Markets published by the McIlvaine Company.

The most recent variable to be introduced is the granting of one year extensions for compliance. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), published in the Federal Register on February 16, 2012, calls for a three-year compliance period for existing sources, with a deadline of April 16, 2015, but provides for an extra year, upon request, for sources that need additional time to comply. There have been 60 extension requests, of which 56 have been granted so far.

At this point, the extensions cover less than ten percent of the capacity. The additional number of extensions which will be granted is unclear. In one of the states with the largest number of coal-fired power plants, officials are of the opinion that there will not be many extensions because the three years is ample time.

Another new variable is activity relative to lawsuits by downwind states. On July 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the third Circuit upheld EPA on a ruling which will force Portland Generating Station in PA to reduce SO2 emissions in order to prevent downwind contamination in New Jersey. What is involved is the SO2 ambient standard and not mercury, but the two are tied together. The more stringent the SO2 limits, the more likely the plant is to adopt wet scrubbing and bromine oxidation of mercury rather than activated carbon.

Another potential interstate problem is the discovery that the amount of particulate mercury emissions are potentially significant and unmeasured. The MATS only requires measurement of the gaseous phase mercury. This was based on the fact that uncontrolled power plants emit almost no mercury in the particulate form. However, the regulation failed to anticipate that once activated carbon is injected to control the mercury, the potential amount of particulate mercury could substantially increase.

This result is an unlikely but theoretically possible situation where instead of capturing the gaseous mercury the power plant only converts it to particulate mercury. It would then meet its regulatory requirement. However, the downwind state would likely take action to prevent this type of operation. The capture of particulate mercury is easily accomplished in fabric filters and possibly with precipitators. But this whole issue has only recently been discovered and, therefore, needs further analysis.

The discovery of the particulate mercury was a result of tests using both sorbent traps and mercury CEMS. Higher readings in the sorbent traps were caused by the particulate mercury capture.

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