Rising opportunities with clean air

Will king coal retain its critical role in our future?

A couple weeks ago I attended the annual COAL-GEN conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The conference spanned 3 days and was centered on topics for existing coal plants. This conference was timely and relevant with future regulations in CO2 emissions at existing coal facilities appearing imminently.  Owners and operators will likely begin a new cycle of evaluating their fleets for fitness in light of the ever changing landscape.

Here are three themes that emerged (at least for me) from the conference.

1.  Fuel diversity remains an important aspect of strategic planning for owners\operators of fleets that use varied fuel types.  Without exception, there exists a persistent desire (and incentive) to retain a critical mass of coal-fired generation as a hedge against natural gas price volatility.

2.  The industry is watching very closely for future developments with respect to President Obama’s June 25, 2013 unveiling of the carbon action plan.  Moves to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants will figure prominently in decisions regarding future environmental compliance moves.

3.  Work continues to find a solution for the problem of capturing CO2 from existing power plants.  The economics of carbon capture continue to be challenging and become even more so when there is no secondary use for the captured carbon (i.e. enhanced oil recovery).

In the U.S. we are in the midst of an historic shift in the landscape of power generation, transmission and distribution.  I’ve devoted the last 20+ years of my life to serving this industry in one way or another and I’m beginning to think that the industry I leave at retirement (if that ever happens) will bear very little resemblance to the one I joined in the early 90’s.  Will king coal retain its critical role in that future?

Image credit: Jeremy Buckingham MLC under a CC license on Flickr

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About the author

Rodney Durban

I’m the North American lead for the Clean Air segment. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations have established major air quality compliance deadlines for the power industry starting in 2015. As a 20-year industry veteran, I see a lot of opportunity for ABB to play in this space. I look forward to leading ABB through this window of opportunity.
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