Q&A with Rodney Durban

New regulations are coming for coal plants--ABB's resident expert outlines what plant owners need to know.

What trend are you seeing in power generation facilities today and their plans moving forward?

Since the release of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan on June 2, 2014, there has been a lot of buzz about the four building blocks that the EPA used to arrive at individual state targets for CO2 emissions.  Specifically, EPA’s assumption that existing coal fired generating facilities can achieve a 6% improvement in heat rate has gotten significant attention.  I’m not sure I’m ready to call it a trend yet, but I do see a renewed interest in heat rate improvement topics lately.

Why is it important for a facility to look at energy efficiency programs?

Simply put, heat rate improvement projects are a no-lose proposition for power plant owners.  The technology is proven and a well-designed, smartly executed program will pay for itself many times over.  The idea of improving heat rate is not new, but the Clean Power Plan looks poised to provide a push that spurs the industry to action.  When we look at what CO2 regulation compliance will take it’s easy to see that anything plant owners can do to maintain current electricity production levels using less fuel will improve their CO2lbs\MWh profile.


If there is one thing that a facility can do today to get started on improving, what should they look at?

A heat rate improvement program can’t really be fit neatly into “one thing” because ideally the end result will be greater than the sum of the individual parts.  That said, there are three areas with relatively low capital cost and with minimal disruption to operations during implementation:

  1. Variable frequency drives on forced and induced draft fans, boiler feed pump motors, and circulating water pumps can show significant reduction in parasitic load within the power plant
  2. Replacing old (over designed) motors with newer more efficient and more accurately sized motors
  3. Combustion optimization programs aimed at balancing coal flow and combustion air to minimize excess oxygen

Returning to the “one thing” you asked in your question.  I suppose the first step is to bring in a firm with expertise in power plant electrical design to conduct a thorough audit and identify very specifically where the opportunities for improvement lay.

Learn more about ABB’s Clean Air initiative at new.abb.com/us/cleanair


photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia via photopin cc

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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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