A Low-Cost, High-Temperature Mercury Sorbent for Coal-Fired Power Plants

EPA Contract Number: 68D01075
Title: A Low-Cost, High-Temperature Mercury Sorbent for Coal-Fired Power Plants
Investigators: Nelson, Sid
Small Business: Sorbent Technologies Corporation
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2001 through September 1, 2003
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2001) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , SBIR - Air Pollution , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The results of the Phase I project increase the likelihood that the project's new technology will make a major contribution to a healthier world environment. First, the U.S. EPA is introducing mercury-control standards on power plants requiring significant emission reductions from over 1,000 utility coal-fired boilers. A regulatory timetable has now been set, which will lead to the installation of mercury control technologies on these units. Second, an analysis of the measurements supplied in response to EPA's mercury Information Collection Request reveals that the biggest part of the U.S. utility problem is the emission of the elemental form of mercury, which current controls do not capture.

During the Phase I project, two discoveries were made that help demonstrate the feasibility of Sorbent Technologies' new duct-injection sorbent approach. First, the new elemental-mercury sorbents were found to work through a chemisorption process. Project experiments showed this to be responsible for high sorbent stability and surprisingly good high-temperature performance. Powdered activated carbons (PACs), the best sorbents currently available, capture mercury primarily through a weak physical adsorption. In fixed-bed experiments at representative utility flue-gas temperatures, the new sorbents demonstrated elemental-mercury capacities ten (10) times higher than typical PACs. With the new technology, it may be possible to achieve net mercury-removal costs that are one-tenth that of current technologies.

The second discovery was that the sorbents can be made from commercially available substrate many times smaller than PACs. This would relieve the bulk-gas mass-transfer limitations that many believe inherently constrain PACs from achieving high performance under economical conditions.

The stage is now set for continued Phase II laboratory and duct-injection pilot-plant testing on simulated coal-combustion gases at Sorbent Technologies' existing facilities. Also in Phase II, materials scientists at The Pennsylvania State University will join the effort to better understand and exploit the increased performance of the new sorbents. In addition, an excellent site has been located that will allow inexpensive duct-injection testing on actual flue gases from a number of problem coals. Outside equity investments for the Phase II Commercialization Option have already been received, enabling the addition of this last task to the Phase II project. Production of the new sorbent has already been scaled up to 40-lb quantities for such testing.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, air pollution, mercury, coal-fired boilers, powdered activated carbon, PAC, flue gases, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Air, Waste, particulate matter, Chemical Engineering, air toxics, Environmental Chemistry, HAPS, VOCs, Hazardous Waste, exploratory air chemistry and physics, Incineration/Combustion, Engineering, Hazardous, 33/50, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, Environmental Engineering, Nox, particulates, coal fired utility boiler , mercury, pollution control technologies, simulated coal combustion, Sulfur dioxide, powdered activated carbon (PAC), PAC, emissions, sorbents, combustion, mercury & mercury compounds, Mercury Compounds, mercury recovery, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), coal combustion, coal fired power plants, air emissions, removal

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    A Low-Cost, High-Temperature Mercury Sorbent for Coal-Fired Power Plants  | 2001 Progress Report  | Final Report