Trace Element Mass Flow Rates from U.S. Coal Fired Power Plants

Trace elements (TEs) exit coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) via solid, liquid, and gaseous waste streams. Estimating the TE concentrations of these waste streams is essential to selecting pollution controls and estimating emission reduction benefits. This work introduces a generalizable mass balance model for estimating TE mass flow rates in CFPP waste streams and evaluates model accuracy for the U.S. coal fleet given current data constraints. We stochastically estimate, using a bootstrapping approach, the 2015 plant-level mass flow rates of Hg, Se, As, and Cl to solid, liquid, and gas phase waste streams by combining publicly available data for combusted coal TE concentrations with estimates of TE partitioning within installed air pollution control processes. When compared with measured and reported data on TE mass flow rates, this model generally overestimates masses by 30−50%, with larger errors for Hg. The partitioning estimates are consistent for Se, As, and Cl removal from flue gas, but tend to underestimate Hg removal. While our model is suitable for first-order estimates of TE mass flows, future work to improve model performance should focus on collecting and using new data on TE concentrations in the coal blend, where data quality is the weakest.