Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 16, 2006
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Chemistry’s Borguet receives U.S. grant to target power plants’ mercury emissions


As the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania proposes to reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power stations by 90 percent by 2015, chemistry’s Eric Borguet is part of a three-school collaboration exploring how to reduce those emissions through a three-year, $533,349 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, of which Temple and Borguet will receive $100,000 over two years of the project.

Borguet will be collaborating with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of South Carolina on the project.

“Coal-fired power stations are one of the major sources of mercury,” Borguet said. “The basic idea behind this project is to understand what happens to chemical species that are emitted by these stations, with a particular focus on mercury.”

Borguet pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bush administration and various environmental groups are debating over permissible levels of mercury emissions.

While the EPA’s rules call for utilities to reduce to mercury emissions at coal-fired plants by 70 percent by 2018, on Feb. 22, Gov. Edward G. Rendell proposed that the state reduce its emissions by 90 percent three years sooner.

“If we are going to reach these levels, we need to have the technology that will enable us to reduce the mercury emissions from these plants,” said Borguet, who is part of Temple’s environmental chemistry group.

The researchers will be using surface chemistry to try to understand how reactions occurring on microscopic particles in the coal-fired power plant’s gas flue stream affect mercury emission into the air, he said.

Borguet, who has had an ongoing collaboration with the environmental engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh and retains a secondary appointment in chemical engineering there, has in the past advised two environmental engineering doctoral students in the basic sciences, mainly looking at reactions on carbon surfaces.

“Carbon materials is part of our ongoing research activities because we want to use carbon materials in environmental remediation,” Borguet said. “As part of this project, we’re interested in injecting carbon particles into the flue stream of the coal-fire power plants in order to try and capture the mercury that is being emitted before it gets into the atmosphere.”

Borguet added that the United States has larger reserves of coal than gas or oil, so energy suppliers’ problem is how to burn the coal in an environmentally friendly way, while getting the maximum energy out of those coal reserves.

- By Preston M. Moretz