Alberta Air Pollution Levels High in Sulphur and Nitrogen Reports Environment Canada

Environment Canada recently released images showing air emissions modelling results across Alberta. These images are a reminder of how a small number of large sources mix together to pollute the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.pembina.org

“[…] SO2 and NOx emissions impact human health not only because they can cause direct harm, but also because they can react in the atmosphere to create fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The Alberta government has found that NOx and SO2 are the main causes of past incidents where PM2.5­ concentrations have exceeded Canada’s air quality standards.

PM2.5 can cause asthma attacks, hospitalizations and even premature death, as we’ve summarized before. It’s a particular concern in Alberta, where PM2.5 is putting us on track to have the worst air quality in Canada, and Edmonton’s pollution levels are exceeding Toronto’s.

These images underscore the cumulative impacts of a small number of very large industrial emissions sources — particularly coal plants, the oilsands and refineries — in addition to distributed industrial activities such as oil and gas operations. Those may all be separate sources, but their emissions end up in the same air. Pollutants from these different sources mix together in the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health. […]

Alberta is unique in the western half of North America for its mid- and high-level readings. The province more closely resembles the densely populated mid-Atlantic region of the United States, or the coal-burning Midwest, than our western neighbours.

Problem spots near coal plants, refineries and the oilsands

Another image shows how SO2 and NOX that is released into the atmosphere returns to ground level, or “deposits.” The image reveals a clear concentration (the orange and red spots) of the two pollutants being deposited around both Edmonton and the oilsands in northeast Alberta.

Edmonton is sandwiched between three large coal-burning power plants, which are clustered near Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton, and refineries on the east side of the city.

The video that AEMERA posted shows modelled SO2 plumes from large emitters across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The three-dimensional plumes reflect SO2 concentrations of at least three parts per billion. How the plumes travel was modelled using real weather conditions from a four-week period in the fall of 2013.

The video visually represents where SO2 is generated, how it moves through the atmosphere and where it eventually lands. As SO2 deposits on the ground, the land surface in the video changes colour to indicate where higher depositions are modelled. Although the specifics will differ for other pollutants, the video is representative of how airborne pollutants generally are dispersed and deposited.

It’s not particularly surprising to see that SO2 pollution originates from oil and gas production, coal plants and the oilsands — Alberta’s three largest-emitting sectors, by far. But seeing how much of the province is affected by these plumes may come as a shock.

The video shows that major industrial emissions do not blow in the direction of the prevailing wind pattern. Rather, they shift directions and can be combined with pollutants emitted in different areas. This raises concerns about environmental evaluations for new industrial emitters, since those evaluations focus on a much smaller area around the polluter — and focus on prevailing winds — rather than these dynamic wind patterns.

The data used for the oilsands is from 2010, so it discounts the emissions growth in that region over the last five years. The data for the rest of the sources is from 2006. In terms of coal emissions, these images correspond closely to today’s reality: NOx and SO2 in 2014 are at nearly the same levels as in 2006. […]”

 

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China’s Switch to LNG From Coal Will Cut Global Pollution

To many people, natural gas seems to be more of the same, a continuation of the old fossil fuel path that has driven industrialization, air pollution and global warming.

Source: www.vancouversun.com

“> […]  China is currently producing twice the greenhouse gases of the United States. And its emissions are growing rapidly. Its emissions surpassed those of the U.S. in 2006, reached double the U.S. in 2014, and are expected to rise by seven per cent per year for the foreseeable future. China obtains 70 per cent of its electricity from burning coal, by far the worst polluter. China has plans for doubling its use of coal in the next 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, the emissions from the U.S. have stabilized, partly from a slowing economy, but the biggest effect came from a switch from coal to natural gas. If you replace an old coal power plant with a modern natural gas one, you can cut carbon dioxide emissions by a factor of three.

Natural gas doesn’t cut emissions to zero; it is still a fossil fuel. But it obtains much of its energy from hydrogen, an atom that out numbers the carbon atoms in methane (the key component of natural gas) by 4:1. Natural gas can be burned with much higher efficiency than coal, by use of a combined cycle turbine that harnesses both gas and steam power generation.

China wants to move away from coal, to natural gas, nuclear, and solar. Their chief concern is not global warming, but the horrific air pollution that is killing an estimated 4,000 people per day in China, 1.6 million per year. […]”<

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China’s Capital City to Shut Major Coal Power Plants due to Excessive Pollution

(Bloomberg) — Beijing, where pollution averaged more than twice China’s national standard last year, will close the last of its four major coal-fired power plants next year.

Source: www.bloomberg.com

>” […]

The capital city will shutter China Huaneng Group Corp.’s 845-megawatt power plant in 2016, after last week closing plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co., according to a statement Monday on the website of the city’s economic planning agency. A fourth major power plant, owned by China Datang Corp., was shut last year.

The facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.

The closures are part of a broader trend in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. Facing pressure at home and abroad, policy makers are racing to address the environmental damage seen as a byproduct of breakneck economic growth. Beijing plans to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 from the 2012 level in a bid to slash the concentration of pollutants.

Shutting all the major coal power plants in the city, equivalent to reducing annual coal use by 9.2 million metric tons, is estimated to cut carbon emissions of about 30 million tons, said Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based research company with a focus on China.  […]

Closing coal-fired power plants is seen as a critical step in addressing pollution in China, which gets about 64 percent of the primary energy it uses from the fossil fuel. Coal accounts for about 30 percent of the U.S.’s electricity mix, while gas comprises 42 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.  […]

Air pollution has attracted more public attention in the past few years as heavy smog envelops swathes of the nation including Beijing and Shanghai. About 90 percent of the 161 cities whose air quality was monitored in 2014 failed to meet official standards, according to a report by China’s National Bureau of Statistics earlier this month.

The level of PM2.5, the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health, averaged 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter last year in the capital, compared with the national standard of 35.

The city also aims to take other measures such as closing polluted companies and cutting cement production capacity to clear the air this year, according to the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. […]”<

 

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Michigan’s Consumers Energy to retire 9 coal plants by 2016

New EPA regulations are an opportunity to modernize the generating fleet, according to a Consumers Energy official.

Source: www.utilitydive.com

>”[…] Consumers Energy will shutter nine coal plants in Michigan as EPA air pollution regulations make them unprofitable to operate, MLive reports. And the Michigan utility won’t be the only one. A wave of coal retirements will roll across the Midwest by early 2016, shuttering more than 60 generating plants, a Consumers official told the “Greening of the Great Lakes” weekly radio program.In addition to the regulations under the Clean Power Plan and other EPA programs, Consumers says many of the nine coal plants were built in the 1950s and are simply at the end of their productive lives.  […]

Last year Consumers Energy announced it had selected AMEC to run the utility’s decommissioning program for the planned retirement of seven operating units at the utility’s three oldest coal-fired generating plants. Though there is still uncertainty over just what impact a slate of EPA regulations will have, Consumers last year said the power plants being decommissioned have an average operating life-span of more than 60 years and collectively represented approximately 950 MW of electric capacity.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, but as it stands the regulations could apply to 1,400 generators at more than 600 of the nation’s largest power plants.

Federal regulators believe the tighter controls could prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year by limiting mercury, particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants it says are hazardous to public health.”<

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