DOE selects Southern Company site for mercury program

ATLANTA – A Southern Company subsidiary has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to participate in the nation`s first full-scale program to test advanced mercury control technologies.

The company’s Alabama Power subsidiary will install and test an innovative mercury control process at its Gaston generation plant near Wilsonville, Ala.

As part of the process, carbon will be injected into an existing ash collection system already installed on the plant site. The carbon will absorb the mercury, which could result in substantial emissions reduction.

"This project re-affirms the commitment of Alabama Power and Southern Company to explore ways to provide our customers with reliable, affordable electricity that is cleaner than ever,” said Alabama Power Senior Vice President Jerry Stewart , who is responsible for power generation. “We want to be at the forefront of developing efficient and effective control solutions.” The system to be used by the Gaston plant is a transportable mercury control technology developed by ADA-Environmental Solutions, a subsidiary of Earth Sciences, Inc., based in Colorado. According to the DOE`s National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is spearheading the project, the goal is to develop a cost-effective technology that will allow the electric utility industry to reduce mercury emissions from power plants by up to 70 percent of current levels.

"Coal as an energy source plays an important role in the nation`s fuel diversity, which helps ensure electricity price stability and reliability," said Scott Renninger, project manager at DOE`s National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va. "Finding a cost-effective and technologically-feasible method of controlling mercury emissions not only improves the environmental operations of generating plants but also secures the important role that these plants play in our nation`s electric supply."

Alabama Power and Southern Company will work with ADA-ES, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Hamon Research Cottrell and two other electric generating companies on the project. The $6.7 million project includes three other generating units located in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. The DOE will fund 70 percent of the project costs with Alabama Power and the other participating companies co-funding the remaining 30 percent.

Testing at Alabama Power’s Gaston plant will begin the first quarter of 2001.

"We have made great progress in controlling emissions of nitrogen oxides. Now we face the more difficult challenge of controlling mercury, which is found in only trace quantities in coal," said Dr. Charles Goodman, senior vice president, research and environmental affairs for Southern Company. "We are excited about the chance to develop this next generation of emissions control technologies that can be used throughout the industry. We take pride in our continuing effort to play a leadership role in developing innovative approaches to lessening the impact of our operations on the environment."

Alabama Power and Southern Company are recognized as pioneers in advanced environmental control technologies. The company’s Power Systems Development Facility, also located in Wilsonville, is researching innovative technologies that could allow power plants to make the same amount of electricity while burning one-third less coal. The technologies also remove or reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and particles from the coal combustion process.

Alabama Power, the largest producer of electricity in Alabama, provides affordable, reliable electric service to 1.3 million customers.

Southern Company is an international energy company that operates more than 48,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity worldwide. Southern Company has operations in 12 countries on five continents. Based in Atlanta, Southern Company is the parent firm of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power, Savannah Electric and Southern Energy. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, risk-management and technical services in the United States and Europe and offers Southern LINC wireless telecommunications.