Coal Will Likely Still Need To Be Cleaned up Years From Now

Coal Will Likely Still Need To Be Cleaned up Years From Now

Picture Credit: ETA+ on Unsplash

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

Coal-fired power plants may be out of vogue from an environmental standpoint, but there is little doubt they will still be vitally important in producing electricity for decades to come.

Given such a reality, some climate advocates are saying that it could remain environmentally vital that dangerous emissions caused by coal-burning are mitigated or controlled.

Among those emissions is mercury, which when ingested or inhaled can cause chronic and acute poisoning and damage the brain, kidneys, and lungs as well as impact the environment and wildlife. Coal-fired power plants have historically been the largest industrial emitter of mercury, typically accounting for about 20% of all mercury emissions.

One Texas-based company’s technology has been a game changer in capturing mercury emissions from coal plants across the United States. Corsicana-based ME2C Environmental MEEC owns patented mercury-capture technology that the company estimates is currently in use by over 40% of coal-using utilities in the United States. Some of that use, it says, is also breaking patent law.

How it Works

Using a chemisorption technology called “Sorbent Enhancement Additive (SEAⓇ)”, proprietary sorbents are injected into two sections of a coal-fired boiler (the “front end” and “back end”) in minimal amounts to capture the mercury. ME2C reports that its Sorbent Enhancement Additive (SEA)-patented approach is more effective and cost-efficient than other technologies such as alternative sorbent processes or more capital intensive approaches.

Not only does the capture prevent the vast majority of the mercury from being emitted — the company estimates greater than 90% of the toxic chemical is captured by its patented process —  and also maintains the quality of coal ash, a byproduct of coal-fired electricity production used by heavy industrial, construction, and transportation industries in asphalt, cement, and concrete. Low quality coal ash, rather than recycled for industrial use, is dumped into neighboring ponds (“coal ash ponds”) where mercury, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals leach into the soil and water streams.

In the early 2000s, the innovative SEA technology was introduced to the U.S. coal-fired industry as a new, highly-effective approach for capturing mercury.  Today, under strict EPA regulations, the U.S. has among the highest mercury capture rates of any country. Taking their expertise in sorbent technologies, referred to as chemisorption, the company is also developing an emerging technology to separate and process rare earth elements (REEs) extracted from coal ash ponds and wastewater. REEs are widely used in a number of consumer products and industries and are mainly sourced from China in environmentally damaging processes.

Many U.S. politicians believe that REEs play a key role in our nation’s national security due to our reliance on these elements for critical components of our infrastructure and supply chain. The U.S. is actively working to source REEs domestically although processing the REEs within our borders remains a challenge due to the high amounts of toxic and caustic acids processing them results in. ME2C is working to introduce their innovative, commercially viable approach to process REEs during the latter half of 2022.

It’s All Connected

ME2C sees a multipronged approach in using its technology to explore a variety of potential benefits, but the mercury emissions capture is at the core of it all.

The company continues to enter into a number of licensing agreements with major utility companies in the U.S. to use its mercury emissions technology, including American Electric Power Company Inc. AEP and Vistra Corp. VST.

By using the mercury capture technology, both utility companies had been allegedly infringing patent rights held by ME2C, the company said. Through entering multi-year licensing agreements, the utility companies were then dismissed from a lawsuit brought by ME2C.

In addition to AEP and Vistra Corp., two other major U.S. utilities were named as defendants in the company’s 2019 patent lawsuit.  All four of the utility companies in the lawsuit have since reached licenses to continue operating the company’s patented technologies.  ME2C’s existing customer base includes coal-fired utilities predominantly in the Midwest and Southwest. The company expects to add additional licensees and/or supply customers over the next year.

ME2C’s 2019 patent lawsuit continues with approximately 18 defendants still involved. With all four of the initial utility companies named as defendants now under a license agreement, the remaining defendants are focused on refined coal operators and related entities involved in a profitable tax credit program introduced in 2011. The IRS T-45 tax credit has issued over $1 billion annually over the decade-long program for the use of refined coal, which ME2C claims was based on their patented technologies. 

The lawsuit is expected to be brought to court in September 2023 with discovery currently progressing on course as expected after over two years of magisterial review.

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

Posted In: Midwest Energy EmissionsPartner ContentPenny StocksEmerging MarketsMarkets