Southern Research Helps Power Plants Meet New Mercury Emission Standards

Southern Research’s Mercury Research Center in Birmingham is helping power plants, fuel suppliers, and technology suppliers meet new mercury emission standards that went into effect earlier this year.

The Mercury Research Center began operations for the first time in Birmingham this week. It’s the only testing facility of its kind in the world.

It’s geared towards helping companies meet the federal emission standard of 1.2 pounds of mercury per trillion BTU’s (1.2 lb./TBtu) that was imposed last April.

“The two biggest benefits we offer customers is convenience and a controlled test environment that mimics full-scale operations,” said Southern Research Director Corey Tyree, Ph.D. “We can test a wide variety of fuels at different process conditions, and we can do it based on our client’s scheduling needs. That faster turnaround time can save our clients money because they’re getting the important information they need in just a few weeks.”

The new emission standards apply to coal-fired power plants, which produce 38 percent of the electricity in the United States and 40 percent of the world’s electricity, according to the World Coal Association.

Coal is a fossil fuel that needs to be cleaned because it contains mercury, which can cause potential health problems.

This week, Southern Research began testing for one client to determine how activated carbon can adsorb mercury more efficiently.

“We’re trying to help our client create a better mercury adsorption product for the power industry,” said Tyree. “Activated carbon contains pores that can adsorb pollutants like mercury. So, we’re testing the activated carbon at different process conditions and using different types of fuels. No other research facility can do that in a way that mimics full-scale conditions.”

Gulf Power and Southern Research started the Mercury Research Center in Pensacola, Florida in 2005. Gulf Power helped relocate the testing equipment to Southern Research earlier this year. Southern Research installed the equipment at its Birmingham headquarters during the summer.

The Mercury Research Center houses a one-megawatt furnace, an air preheater, a baghouse, an electrostatic precipitator and a dry sorbent scrubber.

You can contact Southern Research’s Senior Project Leader Laura Berry at (205) 581- 2502 to learn more.