Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brandon Shores New Flue Gas Desulfurization Scrubber

Constellation Energy has just completed an $875 million air pollution scrubber at its 26-year-old Brandon Shores coal-fired power plant in Pasedena, Maryland. A pair of 700-foot stacks adjacent to the new scrubber are no longer used because of the new scrubber and 400-foot stack. nearby, which until recently belched toxic, acidic smoke from the power plant, are quiet. The white clouds rising from the stack are almost entirely water vapor.

Brandon Shores, along with Constellation's H.A. Wagner power plant on the same 360-acre riverfront tract, have together been the nation's leading emitter of hazardous air pollutants, according to data from EPA. Constellation's spent more than $1.5 billion to comply with Maryland's Healthy Air Act, which when it was passed in 2006 and requires power plants to reduce harmful emissions by 70 percent to 80 percent by this year, and by 75 percent to 90 percent by 2013. Targeted are releases of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury - byproducts of burning coal that contribute to environmental and health problems in the state. Nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone pollution or smog. Mercury is a toxic metal that, in small doses, can damage the brain, nervous system and other organs.

Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam:
Jeff Grynkiewicz and co-workers monitor operations in the control room

Residents near the plant are still jousting with Constellation over its disposal of the ash left after burning coal at the Brandon Shores and neighboring Wagner plants. The company paid a $1 million fine and settled out of court for $54 million more a couple of years ago for contaminating wells in the Gambrills area with ash dumped into an old quarry. Now, most of the ash - which can contain toxic metals and other contaminants - goes into making cement and is put to other beneficial uses, while about 20 percent of it is hauled by truck to a landfill in Virginia. The company is seeking state approval to dispose of ash in an industrial landfill in nearby Hawkins Point.

The water used in the scrubbers is treated wastewater from Anne Arundel's Cox Creek sewage plant and is treated again to state specifications before being discharged into the Patapsco River. Brandon Shores can generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1 million households for a year. The Brandon Shores scrubber project is the largest environmental construction project ever undertaken by Constellation Energy and is now one of the cleanest coal-burning power plants of its kind in the country.

(Baltimore Sun, 2/20/10, Constellation Overview and Video)

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