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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.


Roger Pham

@Kit P,

The lifespans and reliability of solar PV and wind turbines are well known, and are very good such that new wind is being built at twice the capacity of NG, while new coal is quite small. There is nothing magical about a steam turbine nor a gas turbine that make them more reliable than a wind turbine. They are all mechanical items and they are all turbines. Earlier versions of cars and planes were not nearly as reliable as modern-day cars or airplanes, as these were perfected with subsequent generations. The same will hold true for wind turbines. Subsequent generations will be more reliable than previous, and levelized cost of RE will keep coming down.

Solar PV's are solid state electronics, and as such, they will last for decades of use. The warranty for solar PV is 20 years. If that is not reliable enough for you, don't worry, they are cheap to replace!

Imagine this, Kit P, that solar PV is used for daytime electricity, while solar CSP with thermal storage is used after sundown, while wind energy and surplus of solar energy will be used to make fuels. With a war-time build-up of $4 trillion USD's worth of these infrastructure over 10 years' time, I can guarantee you that we will have a surplus of RE at all times, and that we won't even need backup fossil fuel power plants. That's right, no need for any standby NG gas turbine nor coal power plant, ever. The solar thermal CSP plants may be equipped with a methane burner as a backup on very rare occasions that not enough wind and sun on the entire continental USA as a single inter-connected grid, capable of distributing power far and wide to even out the fluctuations of solar and wind.

I see a lot of optimism ahead, especially in the exponential rise in new wind and solar generation capacity, and the awareness of the leaders in the energy industry and our government and the scienfific community about the dangers of GW.

I don't know how to convince you about the dangers of GW, so, let's look at it this way: The switch to RE and synthetic fuels will still be very beneficial to mankind even if GW is not a factor. We will be able to avoid future oil wars, environmental damages due to coal mining and burning, and NG fracking, and huge oil spills like the last major one in the Gulf of Mexico. We will be able to create millions of new jobs and stabilize the economy and avoid budget deficits and repayment on our gov.'s debt, avoiding the devaluation of the dollars, and ensure social stability due to job availability and hope for the future and ensuring world peace and cooperation. With availability of vast RE quantity, we will have the ability to purify sea water to ensure normal human development in arid areas and avoiding wars and conflicts due to lack of water resources. With vast energy resources available to desert areas, huge green houses can be built to grow any kind of vegetation and crops to feed human population, while the water in the green house can be condensed on the roof at night and reused ad infinitum. Air Conditioning will be used to combat GW in these green houses, allowing pleasant Coastal California climate to be available to the hottest of desert areas. Do you see how important RE can be to humanity? Give us low cost and plentiful of Green energy, and we can create the most unimaginable miracles!

Low cost RE will be much more than just about GW and Climate Change. Vast and cheap RE resources will enable us with new and exciting ways of life we never could imagine possible!

Kit P

“are well known”

Since we do not have 20 years of data for the existing generation of equipment, reliability can not be known. The Carter era of wind and solar was junk. Many biomass and geothermal plants are still running after 30 years.

The main problem I have with Roger is that he just makes up stuff. Aside from unreliable equipment solar does not work at night and wind does not work when the wind is not blowing. The people who promote wind and solar have a short attention spand.

“being built at twice the capacity”

The second problem I have with Roger is his childlike logic. We are not building wind and solar because it is a good idea but because politicians who have no experience making power think it is a good idea.

“I don't know how to convince you about the dangers of GW”

It is a theory about the future. There have been many in the past and none of those happened. The sky is not falling. Try science Roger instead of making up stuff.

While Roger enjoys a good fantasy, the power industry wants the light to come on when the switch is turned on.

Roger Pham

@Kit P,
You forgot that in Denmark, wind energy was growing from 20% of total in 2008 to 35% of total electricity output in 2012, or only 4 short years! and they plan to up this to 50% of total output by
The 2 main problems that I have with Kit P is that:

1. He ignores any references presented to him while accusing other people of making up stuffs. If he would only take a little bit of time to look at the references presented to him, then he will realize that regular posters here in GCC do not make up stuffs.

2. Kit P regularly bashing solar PV and wind turbines without giving a shred of evidence to support his opinion about the lack of reliability of solar PV and wind turbines, while real-life experiences point the other way. Kit P's persistent denial of GW without citing a single evidence to support this opinion, even when major leaders of the energy industry are recognizing GW being a major threat to humanity.

Roger Pham

Denmark plans to up wind energy to 50% of total electricity output by 2020! If wind turbines are so uneconomical, then why are they doing it? Scandinavians enjoy the highest living standard on earth and have among the highest GDP in the world. They can only get there by being very intelligent economically!

Anyway, thank you, Kit P, for allowing me the opportunity to put facts, calculations and reasonings in better perspective so that other people can see the points. Though, I am not giving up on you yet...I'm optimistic that on a beautiful day in the future, all this will become clear to you. You may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm actually enjoying a good fantasy...that of someday getting you convinced of RE and GW!


Many posters have not realized that:

1. Many Nuclear Power Plants are being phased out.
2. Many Coal fired power plants are being converted to NG and/or phased out.
3. Wind power is growing at a faster rate and is geting to be very cheap.
4. Solar power will soon be growing faster than all other sources.

In the not too distant future; SOLAR, because it has more room to grow in effectiveness (from 10% to 50+%) and is so clean and abondant, will become the major energy source for our children and grand children.

Kit P

“You forgot that in Denmark”

I do not care about Denmark. People are always talking about someplace else. Since wind resources are local that is kind of important.

“shred of evidence to support his opinion”

Kind of waiting for the wind and solar industry to provide something more than press releases about how much junk they sell.

Bob Wallace

Trying to have a reasonable discussion with Kit is a waste of time, IMO.

He's simply not open to reconsidering his position regardless of how much information he's given.

Facts that don't support his beliefs are dismissed as lies.

He supports his claims with 'facts' that no one else seems to have access to.

If people come here to discuss energy and vehicles in particular it would probably be more productive to simply put Kit on "ignore". Look at who wrote the comment and if you see his name then move to the next comment.

We've got some knowledgeable people who show up and contribute from time to time. Engage with them.

Kit P

“We've got some knowledgeable people …”

More than 40 years ago I first made electricity as a steam turbine operator on a ship built in WWII. Since I liked what I was doing, I studied mechanical/power engineering in college. I chose the power industry for a career. Later I studied environmental engineering at the graduate level with a particular interest in reducing ghg emissions.

BS Bob confuses being interested in energy and the environment with being knowledgeable. BS Bob lives in California which does not have coal plants and thinks building wind farms in the PNW will reduce the coal plants in California because of something they did in Demark.

It is not a belief that solar does not work at night. It is not a belief that wind turbines do not make power when the wind does not blow. Is this stating a fact or bashing?

The reason BS Bob wants other to ignore me is that I provide a counter point to the BS he makes up and call information.

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