NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                  OCTOBER 2013

New Greenhouse Gas Standards for Coal-fired Power Should Make Exception for Beneficial Waste Steam Use

EPA is soliciting comments for proposed new limits on CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. Many rules are ultimately written with exceptions which further the goal but by a different route.   McIlvaine has analyzed these routes in Utility CO2 Mitigation Markets and has concluded that an exception should be made for beneficial waste steam reuse.

Plant Type

CO2 Emissions


Old Coal-fired Power Plant


Peaking Gas Turbine


New Coal-fired Power Plant - Ultra Supercritical - No Carbon Capture


Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Power Plant


Old Coal-fired Power Plant With Beneficial Waste Steam Use


New Coal-fired Power Plant With Beneficial Waste Steam Use


Wind and Solar


Coal And Biomass Oxycombustor With CO2 Sequestration


Ironically, some of the oldest district heating coal-fired power plants in the U.S. are the ones which are producing the least net quantity of greenhouse gases. The reason is that there is a beneficial use of waste steam. The large white plume emitted by power plants typically represents lost electrical energy equal to the actual output.   In the case of district heating plants there is no steam plume. Instead the steam is used to heat buildings or is provided for use in various industrial processes.

Great Rivers Energy has demonstrated several ways to beneficially use the waste steam. The co-located ethanol plant requires no gas-fired boiler but simply uses the steam from the coal-fired power plant. At a second location, the company is drying lignite and greatly improving efficiency. Co-location of sewage treatment plants is a very promising option.

An old coal-fired power plant with beneficial waste steam use will emit no more net CO2 than a new combined cycle gas turbine power plant.   Many old power plants are centrally located with many opportunities for beneficial waste steam use.

There is a big potential to build a fleet of new coal-fired power plants with beneficial waste steam use. They would emit less greenhouse gases on a net basis than would combined cycle gas turbine power plants without the co-location.

Wind and solar do cause some additional greenhouse gas emissions. These are the result of the manufacturing and operating processes e.g. truck travel to remote sites to service generators.

The ultimate in greenhouse gas reduction is to burn biomass along with the coal and then sequester all the CO2.   Biomass represents CO2 which has been removed from the atmosphere. If it is burned and the gas sequestered, there is a net reduction in the CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

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