EPCM Global Engineering are the South African representatives of the Luxembourg-based company Carbon Process & Plant Engineering (CPPE) who is the owner and provider of the Sulfacid® technology for flue gas desulphurisation by reacting the SO2 with water on an Activated Carbon bed in order to reduce air pollution and to produce a sellable product (H2SO4). The Sulfacid® technology is not reliant on limestone to remove oxides from sulphur, which is more practical in a country such as South Africa, where limestone is scarce.
EPCM Senior Project Manager Dr Gunther Hasse, EPCM CEO Itumeleng Kgomo and CPPE CEO Dr Alain Strickroth argue that Sulfacid® technology is the next step in unlocking the South African economy and ensuring a healthier population and environment.
This can be accomplished “by changing the nature and narrative of the coal-power industry in South Africa,” remarks Hasse.
Coal is used to generate more than three quarters of South Africa’s electricity, yet coal-fired power generation is responsible for most sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions into the atmosphere. This gas is toxic and, therefore, detrimental to the health of community members who live in close proximity to coal-fired plants, says Strickroth.
The World Health Organisation has linked the inhalation of SO2 with adverse health problems such as cancer and lung disease. Kgomo notes that, despite South African legislation to limit coal-fired plants’ SO2 concentrations, multiple transgressions of the atmospheric emission licence limits are being reported by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
The concept of the technology is derived from limestone-based wet flue gas desulphurisation, which also removes oxides of sulphur from flue gases, but the Sulfacid® technology does not require alkaline adsorbents, such as limestone or other chemicals, to adsorb sulpher oxides.
“Sulfacid® technology is the abatement solution for the pollution coal-fired power generation industries are creating,” Strickroth tells Engineering News.
Eskom is implementing traditional limestone-based wet flue gas desulphurisation (WFGD) technology at it’s Kusile coal-fired power station, which is under construction, in Mpumalanga, and is planning to retrofit the same technology at its Medupi power station, in Limpopo.
Kgomo draws attention to the issue that WFGD requires large volumes of limestone, which is scarce, costly and of poor quality in South Africa.
Sulfacid® technology converts sulphur oxides into sulphuric acid by adsorption in cold wet catalytic-process on a fixed bed of activated carbon, requiring only water and air, which Strickroth reiterates would prove to be the superior abatement solution over the use of limestone.
There is an increasing resistance against coal-generated power and an increasing public demand for renewable energy; however, Hasse who wrote the academic article Next-generation, affordable SO2 abetment for coal-fired power generation, argues “Coal is not the opposition of renewable energy or Hydrogen”.
The sulphuric acid produced when using Sulfacid® technology will stimulate the economy, says Kgomo, as sulphuric acid is used in, for example, the manufacturing of fertilizers, and petroleum refining and metal mining, consequently promoting the economic growth points at power stations.
The process also produces 50% less disposable wastewater and demonstrates that coal no longer has to be “an enemy to the environment and contribute heavily to climate change”.
Expanding the function of a coal-fired power plant beyond electricity generation and stream production to the on-site manufacturing of chemical commodities is one of the plausible functional ways of unlocking South Africa’s economy, concludes Kgomo.