The Boardman Coal-Fired Electric Power Plant
Over the last semester, I have researched a coal-dependent electric power plant located in Boardman, Oregon. As part of my research, I began an email-dialogue with Steve Anderson, the stack emissions expert and environmental specialist for Portland General Electric (PGE).
Mr. Anderson informed me that “construction on the six hundred megawatt plant began in 1976,” one year prior to the passing of the Clean Air Act, meaning that the Boardman plant is held to a far lower environmental standard to that of plants constructed post-1977.
When asked about the standards the Boardman plant is held to, Mr. Anderson made no mention of the Clean Air Act, but did say that “the plant is regulated under the Acid Rain rules and as such is subject to SO2 allowance requirements . . . we have purchased some SO2 allowances to meet plant needs.” This means that Boardman buys allowances from other plants, permitting it to produce higher levels of sulfur-dioxide pollution.
Mr. Anderson set up my tour of the Boardman facilities with Tom Myers, the operations manager at the plant. When coal is burned to make electricity, it produces a residue called fly ash. According to Mr. Myers, fly ash is “made up of low levels of arsenic, mercury, calcium, and magnesium, and has tested negative for high levels of toxicity.”
Mr. Myers also described special technologies used to prevent fly ash from escaping into the atmosphere. Apparently, “Portland General Electric (PGE) has invested more than $27.5 million” for environmental safety, which “captures more than 99.5% of the fly ash formed in the combustion process.”
But what of the remaining ash? Mr. Myers assured me that “not all of the residual ash is disposed of . . . it is most often used as an additive in concrete and road construction materials.”
Mr. Myers also me informed that “PGE uses several dust suppressors,” sprinklers that spray water, foam, or other liquids, “near coal transfer points to minimize the amount of coal dust that would normally blow across the surrounding area.”
According to the information pamphlet published by Portland General Electric, the Boardman plant also operates a “liquid waste management program to ensure that waste-water is safe for the environment, and maintains an extensive water-quality monitoring program on Carty Reservoir,” preventing any liquid waste from seeping into the public’s water supply.
Each year in the United States alone, air pollutants from coal burning kills thousands of people (with estimates ranging from 65,000 to 200,000), cause at least 50,000 cases of respiratory disease, and result in several billion dollars of property damage. Nevertheless, Bush’s Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, insists that "America cannot afford to turn its back on the 250-year supply of secure, low-cost energy represented by the massive coal reserves that lie within our national borders”.
Since the current big-business economy prevents the transition to a more environmentally friendly energy source, President Bush has developed a $2 billion, 10-year clean coal technology initiative that began early in March of this year. The plan stipulates that the Department of Energy will offer $330 million in federal matching funds for industry-proposed technologies to reduce coal pollution. Ideally, the Boardman facility will be enticed by federal funds to incorporate new technologies that will help burn coal more cleanly and efficiently.
1. When was the power plant built?
Original site certificate signed March 24, 1975. Construction started in 1976. The plant was put into use in 1980 (until then, Oregon electrical generation was primarily hydroelectric).
2. What are its emissions of SOx, NOx, CO, etc?
1.2 lb/mmBtu on a 3-hour average
30,450 tons as a rolling 12-month total
0.5 lb/mmBtu on a 3-hour average
12,687 tons as a rolling 12-month total
No Permit or Regulatory Limit Exists
3. What does it do with its fly ash?
Ash is either sold for beneficial use or disposed on-site in a landfill. The amount sold depends on market conditions and will typically amount to between 50% and 70% of the ash generated. The ash is made up of low levels of arsenic, mercury, calcium, and magnesium, and is primarily silicon-based. The plant produces three types of ash: fly ash, economizer ash, and bottom ash.
- Fly ash, which has been tested negative for high toxicity levels, makes up 75-80% of the ash produced, and consists of a beige, talcum-powder-like dusty substance.
- Economizer ash makes up less than 5% of the ash produced, and consists of mid-level fly ash mixed with larger particles
- Bottom ash makes up 15-20% of the ash produced and consists of a fine, gravel-like substance.
4. How have the standard changes in 1977 effected the plant?
The new source performance standard (NSPS) due to the Clean Air Act was revised in 40 CFR 60 Subpart Da but it became effective in 1978.
5. Does it meet the new standards?
Since the plant commenced construction prior to 1978, it is not subject to the requirements of 40 CFR 60 Subpart Da.
6. Is it involved with emission trading?
The plant is regulated under the Acid Rain rules and as such is subject to SO2 allowance requirements. We have purchased some SO2 allowances to meet the plant needs. The plant uses no scrubber.
· The Boardman plant is located in north central Oregon, approximately 13 miles southwest of Boardman in Morrow County, about 160 miles east of Portland and 11 miles south of the Columbia River.
· The Boardman area was a good choice for the plant site because its sparse population provides a congestion-free setting for a large industrial operation.
Portland General Electric Co. (65%)
Idaho Power Co. (10%)
Pacific Northwest Generating Co. (10%)
General Electric Credit Corp. (15%)
Portland General Electric Co.
· Current capacity (gross): 600,000 KW
· Current capacity (net): 568,000 KW
· 2001 (gross): 585,000 KW
~( For Comparison, Walla Walla’s 450 wind turbines produce less than 300,000 KW per year. )
Site Certification agreement March 24, 1975.
Start of on-site construction February1976.
Start of coal deliveries January 1980
First electricity generated July 12, 1980
In service August 3, 1980
Main Boiler Upgraded June 1998
LP Turbine Upgraded July 2000
Bechtel Power Corp.
Architect engineer and construction management.
Swan Wooster, Inc.
Coal handling systems
Cambell Yost Grube
Administrative Warehouse Shop Building
· Coal is delivered by 110-car trains, which travel from the mines to the plant about every 2 ¾ days. Each unit train can transport 11,500 tons of coal per trip.
· Coal arriving at the plant is conveyed to the storage areas. At the coal handling yard coal is received, unloaded, stored and sent to the main power building for use in the boiler. The yard provides long-term storage for up to two million tons of coal. At full capacity, there would be enough coal stored there to fuel Boardman for nearly 9 months.
· In order to obtain maximum fuel efficiency and the cleanest combustion possible, the coal is first crushed into smaller pieces (less than ¾ inch in diameter) and then pulverized into dust as fine as talcum powder just before it is burned.
· It is then blown into the combustion chambers of the plant’s boiler where it burns at temperatures reaching 3,000 ºF.
· The boiler fire heats approximately 90 miles of piping turning the water inside to 1,000 ºF steam. This high-pressure steam is what turns the turbine generator and produces electricity.
· As steam leaves the turbine, it is condensed to water as it passes through a system of coils filled with cooling water from Carty Reservoir. Once condensed, the water is recycled back to the boiler and the heating process is repeated.
· Lignite (the softest coal) < Sub-bituminous < Bituminous < Anthracite (hardest)
· Consists of C, H, N, O, S
· Boardman’s coal is low-sulfur sub-bituminous coal mined in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin. Coal is transported by 110-car trains carrying nearly 11,500 tons of tennis-ball sized chunks of coal delivered 2-3 times per week.
· Boardman’s coal contains:
Heat Content 8,500 btu/lb Moisture 30% Ash 5% Sulfur 0.35% Volatiles 30% Fixed Carbon 34%
· Can be received by tank trucker or rail car
· On site storage tank: 450,000 gallons.
Precipitators Control Emissions
· Plant uses special particulate trapping equipment called “electronic precipitators” to prevent ash particulates from escaping into the atmosphere.
· Portland General Electric (PGE) has invested more than $27.5 million in large electrostatic precipitators which capture more than 99.5% of the fly ash formed in the combustion process. Large fans draw combustion gases through the precipitators past electrically charged plates. The charged plates act like magnets and attract fly ash particles. As ash builds up on the plate surfaces, the plates are shaken to loosen the ash particles, which fall to hoppers located beneath the plates.
· Not all residual ash is disposed of. It is also used as an additive in concrete and road construction materials. Bottom ash, which falls to the bottom of the boiler and represents approximately 20% of the ash produced of the plant, is often used as a soil fill to prevent erosion. Both the fly ash and bottom ash are trucked to wither a by-product user or to an on-site ash disposal area.
· The 656-foot chimney, Oregon’s tallest man-made structure, is 48 feet in diameter at the base and 30 feet in diameter at the top. Inside the chimney is a 22-foot-diameter steel liner that directs gases upward through the chimney opening.
· Cooling water needed by the plant comes from Carty Reservoir, a 1,450-acre (at full capacity) cooling pond with a maximum depth of about 80 feet. A divider dike through the center of the reservoir circulates and dissipates warm water discharged from the plant. An intake structure draws water from the reservoir to cool the main condenser on the turbine generator, and provides plant fire protection. It contains circulating water pumps and service water pumps, which supply the plant’s auxiliary systems.
· The reservoir eliminates the need for cooling water from natural streams or rivers and
thus avoids discharge that might impact fish and wildlife. The reservoir also acts as a wildlife reservoir and irrigation source for the local community.
Water Treatment (Feedwater System)
· Raw water pretreatment is accomplished by using bag filters coated with diatomaceous
earth. High purity demineralized water is supplied by one of two makeup
demineralizer system trains that utilize an activated carbon filter; cation and
anion exchange vessels, and a mixed bed vessel. Capacity of one train: 350 gpm.
· Dissolved and suspended solids are removed from the condensate by a full flow polishing system that utilizes mixed-bed cation-anion exchange resin vessels. Capacity: 7000 gpm.
A Good Neighbor
· PGE uses several dust suppressors (sprinklers that spray water, foam or other liquids) near coal transfer points to lessen the amount of coal dust that would normally blow across the desert.
· PGE also operates a liquid waste management program to ensure that waste water is safe
for the environment.
· PGE maintains an extensive water-quality monitoring program on Carty Reservoir.
· All direct discharges to public waters are prohibited.
· The plant shuts down for a period of time in spring for maintenance.
A Community At Work
· PGE employs approximately 130 people. These include mechanics, chemists, control operators, storeroom-personnel, administrative assistants, clerks, and technicians.
· Boardman is a recipient of the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) award for safety.
Pros and Cons of Coal
· Coal provides about 22% of the world’s commercial energy (and 22% in the United States). It is used to generate 62% of the world’s electricity and to make 75% of its steel. In the United States, coal is burned to generate about 52% of the country’s electricity.
· Coal is the world’s most abundant fossil fuel. Identified world reserves of coal should last at least 225 years at the current usage rate, and 65 years if usage rises 2% per year. The world’s unidentified coal reserves are projected to last about 900 years at the current consumption rate and 149 years if the usage rate increases 2% per year. Thus, identified and unidentified supplies of coal could last the world for 965-1,125 years, depending on the rate of usage.
· Coal is very abundant, but it has the highest environmental impact of any fossil fuel from:
(1) land disturbance
(2) air pollution
(3) CO2 emissions (coal accounts for about 43% of the world’s annual emissions)
(4) Release of particles of mercury when burned
(5) Release of thousands of times more radioactive particles into the atmosphere per unit of
energy produced than does a normally operating nuclear power plant
(6) Water pollution
· Each year in the United States alone, air pollutants from coal burning:
(1) kill thousands of people (with estimates ranging from 65,000 to 200,000)
(2) cause at least 50,000 cases of respiratory disease
(3) result in several billion dollars of property damage
· HOWEVER, new ways; such as fluidized-bed combustion, have been developed to burn coal more cleanly and efficiently and may be phases in over the next several decades.
Tom Meyers - Operations Manager
Steve Anderson - Stack Emissions
EPA ReportingEnvironmental Specialist
Portland General Electric
P.O. Box 499
Boardman, OR 97818
David Stewart-Smith - Administrator
Oregon Energy Resources
Linda D Powell - Central Services
User Support Analyst
Rosa Johnson - Central Services
Loretta Kohanes - Energy Resources
Oregon Energy Resources
Tom Meehan - Energy Specialist
Oregon Energy Resources
Loren Mayer - Certificate Holder
Boardman Plant Manager
Bob Conner - Safety Coordinator