To close thermal power plants.... or not?

By: Suad Čobo


Abstract

Life without electricity in the 21st century would be impossible. It replaces most of the things now that we had to do manually earlier. But producing electricity requires power plants, some of which use clean, renewable sources of energy, and others do not. In this article I will be focusing on thermal power plants using coal for production, particularly in my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, because they produce the most energy for our needs here. They were all built many decades ago, a few years after World War II, and we almost solely rely on them for producing electricity. Due to their age, revitalizations and reconstructions of blocks on these plants have been going on for years to increase their efficiency and to minimize the harmful ecological footprint as much as possible, by installing air, water and land purifiers. Thermal power plants have been investing large amounts of money every year in these projects.

Thermal Power Plant ‘TE Kakanj’ as seen from the village of Slapna Gora near Kakanj, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Photo: Suad Čobo)


Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently working on getting a candidacy status in the European Union, which requires drastic steps in protecting the environment, including closure of all thermal power plants in the country because of pollution. However, members of the Independent Intellectuals Association ‘KRUG 99’ in Sarajevo don’t think so.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina is a developing country, and in this state, we don’t have any obligations to decrease carbon emissions'', said Martin Tais, a physicist and climate change & air quality expert at the recent session of ‘KRUG 99’. [1]


He also looked back at the indicators which show the carbon emissions per capita, and reminded that in 1990 Bosnian average was 3.6 tones, and this year it has only risen to about 4.5 tons: “In Europe and around the world the average is around 10, which means a developing country can’t be stopped in its process, and we are at least wanting a permission to be at the European level of carbon emissions. That is essentially changing the agreement, but most countries for Kyoto Protocol were issued a right to increase emissions, but this has to be planned and agreed on”, said Tais. [2]


My Opinion

The TPP in my town, Kakanj, has 7 blocks for producing electricity, of which the first four were already closed due to their age, the fifth is getting closed next year for the same reason and that leaves the sixth and seventh block, which can hardly fill the demand for the town heating system in the winter season. [3] Thousands of some of the most important companies in the country and the most important power station in the entity of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are afraid of how they will develop in 5-6 years, some fearing going out of business. It would mean huge losses the whole country, thousands of workers from the power station and miners will lose their jobs, and companies that depend on our station will cease to exist. While the EU wants to close all thermal power stations, nuclear stations are still working without any problems, and they are more dangerous than thermal ones. Catastrophe in nuclear power plants will impact almost the whole continent, while a catastrophe in a thermal power plant wouldn't make any damage except for its area. People in our country are living and working for decades, more specifically from the 1950s, without any major health problems. The problems for an enormous number of people living here would only start by closing thermal power plants and coal mines, considering the fact that these enterprises employ tens of thousands of workers. Besides, a domino effect would happen, because most of the enterprises that rely on thermal power plants would also go out of business. We would be forced to import the expensive electricity, with most of the population unemployed, health and education systems would also be threatened, and all other institutions. Where would all of this bring us?


I think this should be solved, because the air quality here isn't bad, and our power plant has been financing the installation of quality air purifiers for years now. Besides, there are a lot of factories that are able and should do something about it, but are not doing anything.


The Solution

The solution to this problem is a process called Flue-gas desulfurization, which is a set of technologies used to remove sulfur dioxide from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants, which could be done in many ways: Wet scrubbing using a slurry of alkaline sorbent, usually limestone or lime, or seawater to scrub gases; Spray-dry scrubbing using similar sorbent slurries; Wet sulfuric acid process recovering sulfur in the form of commercial quality sulfuric acid; SNOX Flue gas desulfurization removes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates from flue gases, or by using dry sorbent injection systems that introduce powdered hydrated lime (or other sorbent material). It costs a significant amount of money to do this process, especially because building new, big facilities is necessary. [4] That money can be made by the power plant to itself while producing electricity in a year, however, because of poverty and the difficult economic situation in our country it always gets redirected somewhere else. To finally solve this situation, it is necessary for someone powerful enough to provide the money for the process of desulfurization.


References

[1] Emisije ugljendioksida: termoelektrane da ili ne? (eng. Carbon Emissions: Thermal Power Plants Yes or No?). (16/6/2019). Retrieved from Krug 99: https://www.krug99.ba/event/emisije-ugljendioksida-termoelektrane-da-ili-ne/

[2] Popović, M. (16/6/2019). Sada djelovati kako bismo zaštitili zdravlje budućih generacija (eng. To Take Action Now to Save the Future Generations). Retrieved from federalna.ba | Federalna Televizija: http://www.federalna.ba/bhs/vijest/278633/krug-99-termoelektrane-da-ili-ne

[3] Kakanj Power Station. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia (English): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakanj_Power_Station

[4] Flue-gas desulfurization. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia (English): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flue-gas_desulfurization

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