Utilities set to meet new clean-air standards, official says

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Drake Power Plant downtown will lose the use of one of its three units by year's end. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant downtown will lose the use of one of its three units by year's end.
There's been a lot of allegations tossed around regarding Colorado Springs Utilities' coal-fired power plants and whether they meet federal emissions standards. We won't go into all that in detail, but did think it timely to ask whether the Drake and Nixon power plants will meet clean air requirements when new regulations kick in on Jan. 1.

That's been the impetus behind CSU spending roughly $170 million on new technology invented by local physics wizard Dave Neumann via his Neumann Systems Group.

Here's an explanation on the status of that technology applied to Drake downtown, CSU's compliance and its other project involving adding scrubbers through a different company at Nixon, a plant located 10 miles south of the city.

Amy Trinidad from CSU writes:
There are two new sulfur dioxide mandates that impact our power plants in 2017. The first is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and the second is the Regional Haze Rule.

In accordance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the state of Colorado must demonstrate that areas around power plants meet sulfur dioxide air quality standards. At each the Drake and Clear Spring Ranch campus (where Nixon Power Plant is located), the state has chosen to demonstrate that air quality standards are met through an emission limit (1,995 tons per year at each site) that becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017.

In order to meet this limit at the Drake Power Plant, we committed to ending operations of Unit 5 by the end of 2016 and partial operation of the scrubbers during 2017. As for Nixon, our projected SO2 emissions at Clear Springs Ranch demonstrate compliance with these new limits. Once scrubbers at Nixon are commissioned in the fall of 2017, projected SO2 emissions will be even further below this limit.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the more stringent Regional Haze emissions limits take precedence. One of our responsibilities under the Regional Haze Rule is to meet a sulfur dioxide emission limit (0.13 lb/mmbtu for Drake’s Units 6 and 7 and 0.11 lb/mmbtu on Nixon Unit 1, each on a 30-day rolling average). Scrubbers are required on both of our coal-fired power plants to comply with these mandates.

As of Sept. 26, we took full control of the Neumann scrubbers on Units 6 and 7 at the Drake Power Plant. As you can see from the chart, the scrubbers are successfully demonstrating that we can reduce SO2 emissions to levels that will allow us to comply with new permit limits, including the Regional Haze requirements, in 2017. Our workforce has been trained to provide operational and mechanical support for the scrubbers and will be working over the next year to optimize the system.

As I already mentioned, we are also installing scrubbers at the Nixon Power Plant. Construction will wrap up in the spring and we expect to commence system testing in the fall of 2017 in order to meet the year-end deadline.
She further explains, in response to questions, that Unit 5 at Drake does not have the Neumann technology attached and will be decommissioned at year's end.
Neumann: Invented a new approach to emissions control. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Neumann: Invented a new approach to emissions control.
"By decommissioning Unit 5 and operating the scrubbers, we will be able to meet the new NAAQS yearly limits in addition to the 30-day average Regional Haze mandates," she says.

"As for Nixon, the reason we will meet the new NAAQS yearly limits, which start Jan. 1, is because of the installation of the scrubbers in the spring. Most of the SO2 emissions from this facility will occur January through March," she adds. "Then in March the plant goes into an outage (no emissions being produced) to incorporate the scrubbers. Once that is finished around mid-year, we will be testing and running the scrubbers which will decrease our SO2 emissions to ensure we meet this yearly limit."

In other words, the new limit that takes effect on Jan. 1 is measured on a yearly basis, not daily, so that the addition of scrubbers on Nixon later in the 2017 year will still mean CSU will comply. The Regional Haze limit, however, is a 30-day rolling average limit.

Meantime, Leslie Weise, a Monument resident whose son attends school in the Drake area, continues her battle over her contention that CSU is not meeting clean-air standards. Read more about that here:
See related PDF Pet_Motion_fo_Access_vf.pdf

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