The World Bank

Thermal Power - Guidelines for New Plants Industry - Pollution Prevention Guidelines


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Pollution Prevention Guidelines to provide technical advice and guidance to staff and consultants involved in pollution-related projects. The guidelines represent state-of-the-art thinking on how to reduce pollution emissions from the production process. In many cases, the guidelines provide numerical targets for reducing pollution, as well as maximum emissions levels that are normally achievable through a combination of cleaner production and end-of-pipe treatment. The guidelines are designed to protect human health; reduce mass loadings to the environment; draw on commercially proven technologies; be cost-effective; follow current regulatory trends; and promote good industrial practices, which offer greater productivity and increased energy efficiency.

Table of Contents

  • Industry Description and Practices
  • Waste Characteristics
  • Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Target Pollution Loads
  • Treatment Technologies
  • Emissions Guidelines
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • Key Issues
  • Sources

Industry Description and Practices

This document sets forth procedures for establishing maximum emissions levels for all fossil-fuelbased thermal power plants with a capacity of 50 or more megawatts of electricity (MWe) that use coal, fuel oil, or natural gas.1 Conventional steam-producing thermal power plants generate electricity through a series of energy conversion stages: fuel is burned in boilers to convert water to high-pressure steam, which is then used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.

Combined-cycle units burn fuel in a combustion chamber, and the exhaust gases are used to drive a turbine. Waste heat boilers recover energy from the turbine exhaust gases for the production of steam, which is then used to drive another turbine. Generally, the total efficiency of a combined-cycle system in terms of the amount of electricity generated per unit of fuel is greater than for conventional thermal power systems, but the combined-cycle system may require fuels such as natural gas.

Advanced coal utilization technologies (e.g., fluidized-bed combustion and integrated gasification combined cycle) are becoming available, and other systems such as cogeneration offer improvements in thermal efficiency, environmental performance, or both, relative to conventional power plants. The economic and environmental costs and benefits of such advanced technologies need to be examined case by case, taking into account alternative fuel choices, demonstrated commercial viability, and plant location. The criteria spelled out in this document apply regardless of the particular technology chosen.

Engine-driven power plants are usually considered for power generation capacities of up to 150 MWe. They have the added advantages of shorter building period, higher overall efficiency (low fuel consumption per unit of output), optimal matching of different load demands, and moderate investment costs, compared with conventional thermal power plants. Further information on engine-driven plants is given in Annex A.

Waste Characteristics

The wastes generated by thermal power plants are typical of those from combustion processes. The exhaust gases from burning coal and oil contain primarily particulates (including heavy metals, if they are present in significant concentrations in the fuel), sulfur and nitrogen oxides (SOx and NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). For example, a 500 MWe plant using coal with 2.5% sulfur (S), 16% ash, and 30,000 kilojoules per kilogram (kJ/kg) heat content will emit each day 200 metric tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 70 tons of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and 500 tons of fly ash if no controls are present. In addition, the plant will generate about 500 tons of solid waste and about 17 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of thermal discharge.

This document focuses primarily on emissions of particulates less than 10 microns (μm) in size (PM10, including sulfates), of sulfur dioxide, and of nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides are of concern because of their direct effects and because they are precursors for the formation of ground-level ozone. Information concerning the health and other damage caused by these and other pollutants, as well as on alternative methods of emissions control, is provided in the relevant pollutant and pollutant control documents. The concentrations of these pollutants in the exhaust gases are a function of firing configuration, operating practices, and fuel composition. Gas-fired plants generally produce negligible quantities of particulates and sulfur oxides, and levels of nitrogen oxides are about 60% of those from plants using coal. Gas-fired plants also release lower quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Ash residues and the dust removed from exhaust gases may contain significant levels of heavy metals and some organic compounds, in addition to inert materials. Fly ash removed from exhaust gases makes up 60–85% of the coal ash residue in pulverized-coal boilers. Bottom ash includes slag and particles that are coarser and heavier than fly ash. The volume of solid wastes may be substantially higher if environmental measures such as flue gas desulfurization (FGD) are adopted and the residues are not reused in other industries.

Steam turbines and other equipment may require large quantities of water for cooling, including steam condensation. Water is also required for auxiliary station equipment, ash handling, and FGD systems. The characteristics of the wastewaters generated depend on the ways in which the water has been used. Contamination arises from demineralizers, lubricating and auxiliary fuel oils, and chlorine, biocides, and other chemicals used to manage the quality of water in cooling systems. Once-through cooling systems increase the temperature of the receiving water.

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