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New study: US power plant emissions down
Date:1/9/2014

Power plants that use natural gas and a new technology to squeeze more energy from the fuel release far less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than coal-fired power plants do, according to a new analysis accepted for publication Jan. 8 in Earth's Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The so-called "combined cycle" natural gas power plants also release significantly less nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which can worsen air quality.

"Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997," said lead author Joost de Gouw, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Gouw, who works at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and his NOAA and CIRES colleagues analyzed data from systems that continuously monitor emissions at power plant stacks around the country. Previous aircraft-based studies have shown these stack measurements are accurate for carbon dioxide (CO2) and for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can react in the atmosphere to form tiny particles and ozone, which can cause respiratory disease.

To compare pollutant emissions from different types of power plants, the scientists calculated emissions per unit of energy produced, for all data available between 1997 and 2012. During that period of time, on average:

  • Coal-based power plants emitted 915 grams (32 ounces) of CO2 per kilowatt hour of energy produced;
  • Natural gas power plants emitted 549 grams (19 ounces) CO2 per kilowatt hour; and
  • Combined cycle natural gas plants emitted 436 grams (15 ounces) CO2 per kilowatt hour.

In combined cycle natural gas plants, operators use two heat en
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Contact: Joost de Gouw
joost.degouw@noaa.gov
303-497-3878
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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