US utilities near CSAPR compliance due partly to cheap gas.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Utilities have quickly approached compliance with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule by burning more natural gas as a result of low prices, Bentek Energy said in an analysis Tuesday.

Scrubbers at coal plants have helped cut emissions, but a key factor has been increased use of natural gas, with gas burn up 23% year to date from 2011, according to Bentek.

"Low prices for natural gas have helped the power generation industry as a whole meet and beat EPA targets for power plant emissions at least two years before federal pollution regulations would take effect," Bentek said.

Sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced by 62% during the 2005-2012 period, with 18 states already compliant with 2012 EPA allocations, Bentek said. Nitrogen oxide emissions have dropped significantly as well, down 53% from 2005, with 17 states already compliant with the levels mandated by CSAPR.

"When CSAPR was introduced last year, Bentek's analysis showed that substantial coal plant shutdowns, curtailments or emissions equipment additions would be required in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Texas and Midcontinent regions in order to comply with the rule," the report stated.

"The industry, though, continues to move forward, and Bentek's data shows power plants in many areas already have made changes to comply with the new emissions rules, with the share of natural gas-fired generation increasing as the share of coal decreases."

The threat of more federal rules and enforcement of existing regulations under the Clean Air Act have resulted in the known or planned closure of more than 100 coal plants in the past two years, Bentek said.

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