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EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.

The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

The proposed limits for fossil fuel-fired utility boilers and IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) units (i.e., coal units) are based on the performance of a new efficient coal unit implementing partial carbon capture and storage (CCS).

EPA is proposing two limits for these units, depending on the compliance period that best suits the unit. These limits require capture of only a portion of the CO2 from the new unit.

  • 1,100 lb CO2/MWh-gross over a 12-operating month period; or

  • 1,000-1,050 lb CO2/MWh over an 84-operating month (7-year) period.

The longer compliance period option provides flexibility by allowing sources to phase in the use of partial CCS. The owner/operator can use some or all of the initial 84-operating month period to optimize the system. EPA is soliciting comment on what the standard should be within the proposed range.

According to the DOE/NETL estimates EPA cited in the proposed rulemaking, a new efficient subcritical pulverized coal (PC) unit firing bituminous coal currently would emit approximately 1,800 lb CO2/MWh; a new supercritical PC (SCPC) unit using bituminous coal would emit nearly 1,700 lb CO2/MWh, and a new IGCC unit would emit about 1,450 lb CO2/MWh.

The rule does not apply to any existing EGUs; units undergoing modifications or to reconstructed units; liquid oil-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs; new EGUs that do not burn fossil fuels (e.g., those that burn biomass only); or low capacity factor EGUs that sell less than 1/3 of their power to the grid.

EPA said that the current and planned implementation of CCS projects, combined with the widespread availability and capacity of geological storage sites, makes it clear that the technology is feasible.

Background. In the decision in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007, the Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA must determine if they threaten public health and welfare.

In December 2009, the EPA Administrator found that the current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare; one year later, EPA announced a proposed settlement agreement to issue rules that would address GHG pollution from certain fossil fuel-fired EGUs.

In 2012, EPA issued a proposed standard for EGUs. (Earlier post.) That proposal established an output-based limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt‐hour. With the issuance of the new proposed rulemaking, EPA is withdrawing its earlier proposal.

Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. While the United States has limits in place for arsenic, mercury and lead pollution that power plants can emit, currently, there are no national limits on the amount of CO2 new power plants can emit.

Currently, nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduceCO2 emissions. In addition, more than 25 states have set energy efficiency targets, and more than 35 have set renewable energy targets.

The agency is seeking comment and information on the proposed rulemaking, including holding a public hearing.


Nick Lyons

Lawyers, start your engines.


Long after the the "need" is proven not to exist, and the IPCC's AR 5 is laughed at as scientific pap, the "true believers" esconsed for life in the bureaucracy go on mindlessly creating stupid regulations far afield from its original charter.

I fully support taking the toxic Air Quality regulations to the endpoint of any possible further regulation. That is to pristine Air Quality with a T2B2 tightening, or "ZEVs for all vehicles" mandate.

Then there is nothing else the EPA needs to do other than to shut itself down.

Mission Accomplished.

Of course bureaucracies are the only immortal things Man has ever achieved, anywhere. So to kill it will require depriving it of its blood supply of constantly increasing government funding. Finding the political will to do so is almost impossible, requiring politicians to actually, DO something, and divert the funds to solving other needed problems.


Long after the the "need" is proven not to exist,

Warning: Troll alert!

Bob Wallace

This new set of regulations should be fairly lawyer-proof. Remember, regulations were created some months earlier and then pulled back exactly because it was decided that they might not hold up to strong legal attacks.

This is a great moment. It really signals that coal is done in the US. There's no way to build a coal plant with carbon sequestering and have it be able to compete in today's energy market.

Our existing coal plants are mostly old and nearing the end of their useful lives. Most of our plants are over 30 years old and the average lifespan for a coal plant is 39 years.

Yesterday the federal government canceled a sale of coal. The highest bid was only one fifth of the minimal acceptable price. The market for coal is collapsing.

Now, let's get cranking on wind and solar so that we can minimize our hurt from climate change. And reduce the billions of tax dollars we spend dealing with the health and environmental damage from coal pollution.


You persist in promulgating your fantastic notions that we have anything like the technology needed to have all renewables, and simply ignore the evidence.

The Germans pay $0.30kwh for electricity, and reckon that they will lay out an extra 1 trillion Euros over the next few years compared to fossil fuels and nuclear, for a much less populous country, and will STILL be entirely reliant on fossil fuels to run a renewables heavy grid.

You might as well go the whole hog, and prepare for the Second Coming or the rule of the Illuminati or whatever, as there is nothing remotely scientific, plausible or rational in the pap you churn out.


It is great that Obama is trying to prevent the building of more coal-fired electrical plants, but we need also to close/decommission the old ones.

Sean Prophet

D = Troll.

Bob is right, coal is done in America. Not so much yet in China, but even they are going to phase it out over the next decade or two. The coal export terminals in the US northwest will most likely never be built, nor will the KXL pipeline. Even Australia's coal exports are down, and that's saying something for an economy so heavily dependent on mining exports. They just got a reprieve from carbon regs, but Aussies aren't that stupid. They have a parliamentary system, so the climate backlash will undoubtedly be short-lived.

Davemart, all that's left to have 100% renewables is a bit of practical grid energy storage, which is being worked on pretty furiously by many different players. There are many solutions, from flywheels to flow batteries, to molten salt, to compressed air/pumped water. A lot of countries are already past 20% renewables, with some at 33% and some above 50%. It really doesn't matter what it costs, since the biosphere has pretty much infinite value to humanity. We've got to pay for this now or pay far more later. $.30/kWh is ultra cheap compared to what will happen if we keep burning coal.

People used to say that renewables couldn't reduce baseload, but as they've come on stream in the US, that's been proved wrong as well. WITHOUT storage.

Bob Wallace

Dave, most of the cost of electricity in Germany is taxes. Germany industry pays far, far less for their power than residential customers.

I'm not sure why Germany decided to tax electricity so heavily, but it started well before the decision to close nuclear plants or to install lots of renewables. Germany, and all(?) of Europe also tax vehicle fuel quite heavily.

Perhaps it's to encourage efficiency? Germans use about 1/4th as much electricity per capita as do Americans.

Due to their efficiency Germans pay less of their incomes for electricity than do Americans even though the cost of their electricity is quite high by American standards.

Now, in 2012 having solar on their grids dropped the cost of electricity by 5 billion euros. The cost of electricity in Germany in 2012 was 8 billion euros less than what would have been spent if fossil fuels had generated the renewable input. Germany now has that renewable generation in place and year after year they will be saving billions rather than spending extra money on fuel.

I know that you have some very strong beliefs. And I'm impressed at your ability to hang on to them in the face of facts which prove your beliefs incorrect.

Shine on....


Better late than never.

Canada may follow 10 years latter?


The new plants can use the CO2 with natural gas to make synthetic fuels that substitute for refined products. That way we reduce the amount of C02 emitted AND reduce the amount of imported oil at the same time.

Kit P

“Bob is right, coal is done in America.”

BS Bob lives in a California fantasy world. No coal is produced in California. Maybe BS Bob thinks farmers in Indiana should not grow grown. Why not pass a law requlating lake effect snow while we are at it?

Here is a practical idea to reduce ghg. Ration the amount of gasoline sold in California.

My point here is that the likes of BS Bob are not really interested in reducing ghg emissions when it affects them.

Kit P

“all that's left to have 100% renewables is a bit of practical grid energy storage,”

Is that all? Storing large amounts of electricity will never be practical.

“is ultra cheap compared to what will happen if we keep burning coal.”

What will happen? I have heard some theories on that.

“People used to say that renewables couldn't reduce baseload, ”

This statement demonstrates how clueless some are when it comes to generating power. Wind does not reduce the need for generating capacity. Since the generating capacity already exists, expensive wind power generation can replace some coal generation that is at half the costs. RPS and PTC allow wind farms to make a profit.

Here is a real time load/demand curves for the PNW.

Late Friday tried to go sailing but had to use gasoline to motor up the Columbia River. We plan to have a regatta today. At the moment there is not enough wind to overcome the river current. There is no reason that we cannot use wind but we depend on coal.


RE: above

Thus saith The Coal Lobby.


This is counterproductive, but since emissions limits (a hammer) are the only thing the EPA has in its toolkit, everything looks like a nail.

A sane system would be a per-ton fee on carbon emissions from electric power generators (with partial credit for cogenerators), rebated to the generators on a per-kWh basis.  Generators emitting less carbon per kWh would receive a net dividend, those emitting more would pay a net fee.  This would replace renewable feed-in tariffs and production credits.  High-emitting generators could stay on the grid, they'd just be used only when spot prices were high and thus have relatively low emissions.

Of course, utilities would also be scrambling to keep Vermont Yankee on the grid, and re-commission Kewaunee and SONGS.

Nick Lyons

Ultimately, what the USA does about carbon emissions matters less than what happens in the developing world, since most future emissions will be coming from there. The developing world needs low-cost electricity to advance standards of living, and high-cost solutions (wind, solar, etc) are not going to be adopted. Coal is low cost and widely available. Nuclear is potentially cheaper. Please see:

Sean Prophet

Kit P, I think you're on the fossil payroll. It doesn't matter (talks like a duck...), in any case you're way out of step with the state of technology. Repeating the same old lies in the face of exponentially falling renewable energy prices and exponentially rising worldwide installations is beginning to sound more and more like desperation.

About California, we have half the energy intensity of the rest of the nation per unit of economic output. So limit your own gasoline usage if you want. It might get you *equal* to where we've been out here for decades. As for me, I drive an electric car, so I could care less if you want to "ration" my gasoline. Or charge me $20/gallon. Or charge me a large per-ton carbon fee, *I don't care!* I'm getting more and more "carbon-proof" every year. CA is already at 20%--on its way to 33% renewables.

If you say that "wind does not reduce the need for generating capacity" it means you *didn't even look at the EIA link that I posted.* Proving exactly the opposite. Nice try. As for your completely irrelevant sailing example, the wind is always blowing somewhere, and it blows strongest when the sun is not shining. What a coincidence! Sounds like synergy to me...

Yes, $0.30/kWh is ultra cheap compared to what happens if we keep burning coal. Just ask the people affected by Sandy, or the Colorado floods, and on, and on. And $0.30/kWh is way too high as a comparison, anyway. I can sign up for a 20 year PPA right now to put solar panels on my house for a guaranteed price of $0.17/kWh. I don't do it because I can buy green power from CA for about $0.15. Next year or two, the curves will cross, and bingo, the money makes sense.

You just dismiss grid storage with a wave of the hand. Is that how you evaluate everything else in your life? People betting against technology usually lose. And the carbon apologists are on the really harsh end of that losing bet.

I don't know how you live with that kind of cognitive dissonance, Kit P. I'd get on the right side of history if I were you.

Engineer-Poet, I completely agree, but in this political climate, it's a fair miracle that anything at all has been accomplished on carbon regs. This was never the Obama administration's preferred tool.

Sean Prophet

Engineer-Poet, nuclear is dying. If we had built Yucca Mountain--*maybe* it would be worth saving. Otherwise it's a risky boondoggle to say the least, with nowhere to put waste that becomes a bigger problem every year.

SONGS just destroyed two multi-hundred-million dollar steam generating units in a couple of years that were supposed to last 20 or 30. It's going to cost billions just to decommission the damn thing. I don't know what kind of incompetence led to the steam generator problem, but I hold *no hope* that nuclear will ever be cost effective again. Even with a carbon price. They still can't even get insurance or loans without government guarantees. And every new plant runs over budget immediately. The new units 3 and 4 at Vogtle are behind schedule, mired in controversy, and over budget.

Kit P

“Kit P, I think you're on the fossil payroll.”

I work in the nuclear industry designing new reactors. The company I work for does nuclear and renewable energy. We do not do fossil.

“About California …”

I have worked in the power industry for more than 40 years and my father moved to California in 1960. I know all about California especially some who are clueless. There is a difference between leadership and BS.

“You just dismiss grid storage with a wave of the hand.”

Of course, do you want the whole list of things that folks who are not interested enough in energy to study in it in college but think are a good idea?

“People betting against technology usually lose.”

Nuclear power is technology. I did not bet against it and I am a winner.

“nuclear is dying”

Actually it is doing very well.


The California mentality! A screw up in California does not translate to the rest of the country and world. My company has replaced many steam generators extending the life of the nuke plant to 60 years.

“It's going to cost billions just to decommission the damn thing.”

Every US nuke plant sets aside funds for decommission.

“They still can't even get insurance”

Every US nuke plant is fully insured.

“or loans without government guarantees”

No problem getting loans and government guarantees have not been used.

“mired in controversy”

Really! Why are people in California so concerned about how people in Georgia replace coal?


Sean, I've got to pick a few nits with you (and beer's on me next time I come by, okay?):

About California, we have half the energy intensity of the rest of the nation per unit of economic output.

A lot of that comes from pushing the energy-intensive parts of the economy to other states or overseas.  So long as you consume those products or profit from trading them, you have to count them even if they're not burned in-state.

I'm getting more and more "carbon-proof" every year.

You just got quite a bit less carbon-proof when San Onofre shut down.  Tehachapi isn't going to make up for that.

If you say that "wind does not reduce the need for generating capacity" it means you *didn't even look at the EIA link that I posted.*

The title of that page is "Higher wind generation in the Southwest Power Pool is reducing use of baseload capacity".  It doesn't say that either the baseload or total fossil capacity on the grid is (or can be) reduced, just that its capacity factor has gone down (because "must take" provisions in the law require it, whether or not it makes sense).  That's not quite what you meant.

You just dismiss grid storage with a wave of the hand.

The grid has precious little storage, and a substantial fraction of what's on the North American grid is a relatively short distance from me.  It amounts to maybe a few tens of GWH.  The RE vision needs tens to hundreds of TWH; that is just Not Gonna Happen.

This was never the Obama administration's preferred tool.

The Obummer Administration is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Oil and Gas industry, just like Bush I and II.  This is why the new EPA carbon regs strike at coal but fail to credit nuclear for what it does.  The oil and gas drillers, producers and marketers own them, and by extension, us.

nuclear is dying. If we had built Yucca Mountain--*maybe* it would be worth saving.

China wouldn't have bought another 4 AP-1000's in addition to the 4 already under constructin if "nuclear is dying".

Gregory Jazko made an illegal decision to halt the approval process for Yucca Mountain.  It's almost entirely built, just not "approved".  Furthermore, I don't see what we need it for anyway.

  1. The uranium in spent LWR fuel is perfectly usable in heavy-water reactors; we can sell it to the Canadians for their CANDUs (or build our own).
  2. The plutonium in spent LWR fuel is perfectly usable; we can use it to start fast-neutron breeder reactors, like S-PRISMs.
  3. Short-lived radwaste isotopes are gone before we need to really deal with them.
  4. The longest-lived of the relatively-unstable fission products (Sr-90 and Cs-137) are valuable for purposes such as killing pathogens in food, treated sewage and drinking water.
  5. Some of the long-lived radioactive fission products, e.g. technetium, are relatively inactive and chemically useful as platinum-group metals.
  6. All the stable fission products or ultimate decay products of radwaste are radiologically safe.
From the point of view of dealing with a few thousand tons a year of solids (compared to tens of billions of tons of gases mixed in the atmosphere), this is much ado about nothing.
SONGS just destroyed two multi-hundred-million dollar steam generating units in a couple of years

They were far from destroyed.  One set was mis-designed such that max-flow conditions produced vibrations which created out-of-spec tube wear.  Calculations showed that operating at 70% of spec power would eliminate those vibrations and the consequent wear.  The utility made the mistake of asking the NRC for permission to operate at a power level which eliminated the problematic vibrations (instead of just doing it)... and the fission-phobic NRC required a several-year, uncertain approval process instead of just allowing it.  The utility read the writing on the wall.  This resulting in throwing away a multi-billion dollar asset, but the current value of that asset under the legal assault of the anti-nuclear forces was less than the value of the decommissioning fund.  You (since you are in the service area of SONGS) will regret that soon enough.


@engineer poet
@Kit P

Interesting how Sean has that California mentality about Nuclear. It's bad, bad, bad. If someone gets more than one dental X Rays dose of radiation we must shut the Nuclear plant down. Ca doesn't seem to mind buying electricity from our (Arizona's) nice clean Palo Verde Nuclear power plant, but they wave flags because they are so thrilled that that horrible SONGS plant will be shut down. Not because of the steam generator but because the utility didn't have the political will to fight back against the public's ill conceived notions about Nuclear Power. Well you guys in Ca can just burn gas instead.

But back on topic. I think the way the EPA is doing these limits is unfair to nuclear. There should be a linear scale on how much you pay for emitting CO2. Just because your under 1000 should not mean you don't have to pay. All this does is make the utilities put in combined cycle and burn gas as opposed to Nuclear. Carbon credit system or just a plain CO2 tax would be a much more fair way to do it.


Here is an actual news release from a Ca relative to SONGS.
It shows the mass mentality against nuclear:

Chryssa Atkinson, 51, the mother of two teenagers, said her son liked to surf near San Onofre. Like many other surfers, he insisted the water — which the nuclear plant used to cool the reactors — was warmer than at nearby beaches.

“I was not a fan,” Ms. Atkinson said. “I’d tell him, ‘Yes, the water is warmer, but you didn’t have that tail before you went in.’ ”

But now, for the first time, she doesn’t mind her children surfing near the power plant. “Now that it’s closed, I tell them, ‘Sure, go for it.’ ”

Sean Prophet

OK, a couple of things: I agree that nuclear power is far superior to coal *so long as the waste is handled.* Also the station blackout threat has not been sufficiently addressed.

Clearly, coal plants release more radiation from normal operation than nuke plants.

However, running nuke plants is no longer just an engineering problem. It is way, way political. Therefore, by your description E-P, the management of SONGS pretty much sabotaged themselves.

Kit P, this is the thing with China. Nuclear may be alive there, but that's because when the govt decides to do something, it happens. No public involvement.

E-P, everything you described with nuke waste may be technically feasible, but not politically. Getting a coalition together to push waste disposal in *breeder reactors* (the only operating unit in the world was shut down--in pro-nuclear France) will be even more difficult than getting carbon regulation. And that's saying something.

Kit P, I studied EE at Northwestern University. Is that good enough for you? There is nothing unfeasible about grid-scale storage. And we will need less of it than people think. Because of a lot of distributed solar which will be built once people understand that PV can be integrated into almost every building surface, including windows. And wind can be integrated into every new high rise. Zero energy buildings are completely feasible with existing technology. E-P, what about V2G?

The way I see it, we're doing three things at once: Reducing carbon, getting far more efficient on the demand side, and going to distributed generation. These three factors will make central power stations less and less of a factor, though we still will need some of them.

Kit P, when has a nuclear plant ever been built without federal loan guarantees? And check your insurance policy. Every single one has a nuclear accident exclusion. The government assumes all liability for nuke disasters. Not one insurance company will sell a utility indemnity from radiation releases.

Sean Prophet

This paper is good. I love this quote:

"A cat that sits on a hot stove lid will not do so again, but neither will it sit on a cold one." -Mark Twain

"In September 2007, Lew Hay, CEO of FPL Group, said the total cost of a new nuclear plant (all in mixed future dollars as-spent) could be ~$5,000–7,000/kW, or “on the order of magnitude of $13 to $14 billion” for a two-unit plant. Yet just five months later, FPL31 filed formal cost estimates up to nearly twice that high—$12–24 billion (again in mixed future dollars) for a 2.2–3.04-GW two-unit plant, equivalent to ~$4,200–6,100/kW in 2007 $.32 And even that cost may be understated, because FPL’s implicit real cost escalation rate is only ~1.1–1.5%/y, severalfold slower than recent experience.33"

SO @E-P and @Kit P, are you going to tell me that I couldn't build a renewable energy plant with storage sufficient to provide--say--25% of its rated capacity through the night for baseload for $4,000-$6,000 per kilowatt? And since renewable energy requires no fuel, are you going to tell me such a plant wouldn't be cheaper to operate than nuclear?

running nuke plants is no longer just an engineering problem. It is way, way political.

Why should it be?  "Intervenors" have no such legally-mandated role in the siting and operation of wind farms and their nearly-essential partners, NG-fired turbines.  More bystanders died in just one gas line explosion in California than in every commercial nuclear power plant accident in the West since the dawn of the industry.  Why the blatant and vicious discrimination against nuclear power?

this is the thing with China. Nuclear may be alive there, but that's because when the govt decides to do something, it happens. No public involvement.

Asia as a whole is set to add more reactors by 2025 than the US has running today.  Even the Persian gulf oil states are moving into nuclear for their domestic needs.  They need the export revenues from their oil and gas to make ends meet; uranium costs far less than the gas it displaces.

Getting a coalition together to push waste disposal in *breeder reactors* (the only operating unit in the world was shut down--in pro-nuclear France) will be even more difficult than getting carbon regulation.

Russia's BN-600 is operating this very minute, and Russia has BN-800's under construction and a BN-1200 in design.  And you don't need to get any coalitions together, you just need someone to do it and everyone else can go their own way if they want to.

The problem, Sean, is the decades-long propaganda assault on nuclear energy in the West.  Lots of people think that light-water reactors can explode like atom bombs (a lie; you can't get 5% LEU to go prompt critical no matter how much of it you have, and you can't get it to go critical at all without a moderator).  The use of nuclear power has already saved roughly 1.8 million lives worldwide, and its lack of carbon emissions has been one of the few things moderating human climate-change influences.  We need it very, very badly.  I believe you'll find that the shutdown of SONGS was part of a corrupt process driven by natural gas interests, who will reap enormous profits when conversion of trucking to LNG and LNG exports send North American prices up toward world levels.  Gas users and their customers will pay the price of being captive consumers.

There is nothing unfeasible about grid-scale storage (a). And we will need less of it than people think. Because of a lot of distributed solar which will be built once people understand that PV can be integrated into almost every building surface, including windows(b). And wind can be integrated into every new high rise(c).

(a) I live not far from one of the few such installations in the USA (nearly 2 GW nameplate).  The reasons they haven't appeared nationwide are too numerous to detail here, but believe me, they're very good.  Even CAES is coming along very slowly, and air has the virtue of being free.
(b) Without that storage, more than a certain amount of PV is useless.  Its output must be stored or consumed in real time, and without storage it cannot meet overnight and off-season needs.
(c) I'm not sure how many buildings of 400 feet and more there are in the USA, but I'd wager that a single modern wind farm has a significant fraction as many towers.  Cities also tend not to be located in the windiest areas, and the mechanical and stroboscopic effects of wind turbines make them unwelcome additions to office towers.

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