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One Team, One Power Plant, One Mission

IEM Conveyors is building a plant that will permanently reduce the mercury emissions of a lignite-fired power plant. It may be the first power plant to do so.

Silo installation at the Schkopau Power Plant
Capturing mercury: the silo installation (shown in blue) at the Schkopau Power Plant

The Countdown
Lignite-fired power plants are giants of energy production: they generate enormous amounts of electricity in order to supply entire regions or cities. Now, however, they have less than a year to adapt to the new EU requirements - a very short time span for such energy giants. Why is this?
The Mission
In 2010, the European Council and the European Parliament adopted the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). Among other things, their goal is to reduce mercury emissions from lignite-fired power plants. Therefore, a new limit has been introduced: 10 micrograms per standard cubic meter; this limit applies from January 1st, 2019. With the resources thus far available, most lignite-fired power plants are unable to meet this requirement, and consequently, have to retrofit. Many of the methods tried in recent years have not yet achieved their goal. Now, within one year, the right process for these power plants must be found and integrated into the existing operation - a mission for the process engineering to work out.
The Site
The lignite-fired power plant in Schkopau supplies electricity to a neighboring chemical plant and to Deutsche Bahn, among other places. It burns up to six million tons of lignite per year. For every standard cubic meter of exhaust gas emitted into the atmosphere by the power plant, 15 to 20 micrograms of mercury are released, i.e. about twice as much as the new EU limit as of next year.
The Team
Jan Schütze is one of the few mercury removal experts at the Schkopau Power Plant. As Head of the Mercury Emission Control department of IEM, he is largely responsible for the new process at the Schkopau Power Plant. At the heart of the new process is a silo system that captures the mercury from the exhaust gases by means of activated carbon. It will be built 20 meters high at the middle of the power plant (see picture above). IEM Project Manager, Markus Hertel, is in charge of the team that usually involves seven other IEM employees. In addition, four other companies and several suppliers are involved. Jan Schütze says: "The Schkopau site has the most difficult process conditions compared to other power plant locations known to me in Germany; the amount of elemental mercury that is difficult to separate is very high, plus the high operating temperature and high exhaust humidity make mercury removal difficult. So far, many procedural approaches at the experimental stage have failed, however whoever can solve the issues in Schkopau will be able to cope with them anywhere."
Mission Accomplished?
That remains to be seen at the end of 2018. Until then, IEM's process should reduce mercury emissions to a minimum, thus ensuring the power plant's compliance with new limit from 2019 onwards. This blog will follow the work on the system and will announce when it is successfully fully operational. The countdown has begun.

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