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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 19, 2008
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From Pollution to Green Prizes
November 19, 2008   
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Once a notorious polluter, the Turów Power Plant in southwestern Poland is now one of the most modern and environmentally-friendly plants in the country. This is thanks to the company's heavy investment in environmental protection over the past several years.

Heat and power producers are among the worst polluters in industry. They discharge pollutants to the ground, water and atmosphere, and consequently have a negative impact on plants, animals and humans. The Turów Power Plant (Elektrownia Turów SA) was once one of the worst polluters in the sector. Today it is one of the most modern and environmentally-friendly industrial plants in the country.

Heat and power producers harm the environment by releasing atmospheric pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and various kinds of particulate matter. They also emit industrial and process effluents, generate excessive noise and electromagnetic radiation, and produce noxious waste, including ash, slag, and spent lubricants and oils.

A few years ago, Poland's largest heat and power producers began to invest heavily in environmental protection. The Turów Power Plant in the southwestern province of Lower Silesia is a standout example of this policy.

The comprehensive modernization of the plant, completed in 2005, was hailed as one of the most successful projects of this type in Central Europe. It turned Turów into a leading lignite-fired power plant in the country.

This is a major change from the early 1990s when Turów was high on the list of Poland's 80 largest polluters castigated for emitting excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and for discharging untreated effluents to surface waters.

Today Turów is one of the best-known Polish power plants abroad, testifying to the country's progress in adapting to European Union environmental regulations.

Winds of change

The Turów Power Plant was built in 1962 in Bogatynia, a town in the southwestern province of Lower Silesia. The location was chosen because of the area's extensive deposits of lignite and because of heavy demand for electricity in this part of Poland. In 2004, the company became part of a mining and power engineering corporation called Polska Grupa Energetyczna-Górnictwo i Energetyka SA (PGE GiE).
The largest shareholders in the Turów Power Plant are PGE GiE, with 69 percent, and the Treasury, with 16.29 percent. The remaining 14.71 percent of the stock is scattered among other shareholders.
The primary fuel for the power plant is lignite, supplied by conveyor belts from the nearby Turów strip mine. Electrical power generated at Turów constitutes 8.3 percent of Poland's total electricity production.

In the early 1990s, the Turów Power Plant came under fire from environmental organizations because it relied on obsolete lignite extraction and processing methods and failed to meet environmental standards. The environmentalists even demanded that the plant be shut down. In 1994, the plant's managers made a milestone decision to devise a thorough modernization plan for Turów. This was the first comprehensive program for technological and environmental improvement in Poland's energy sector. Over the next decade, the program cost the company around $1.5 billion, and is now considered to be the largest project ever carried out by a single company in Poland.

According to Turów executives, the modernization project not only helped improve the environment in the region, but also made a difference in the so-called Black Triangle, a highly industrialized zone of 150 kilometers in the border areas of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. As a result, the region regained its tourist appeal and became a model example for other companies, offering an alternative direction for the development of the energy sector.

Environmental care

"Our company pays a lot of attention to environmental protection, trying to limit the plant's negative impact on the environment," says Anna Jackowiak, an environmental protection expert at PGE GiE. "We pursue this goal by constantly monitoring and improving the production process, optimizing the use of fuel, and modernizing the plant to increase production efficiency."

With this policy, the PGE GiE group has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 19 million metric tons over the past several years.

"Our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions focus on greater efficiency of energy production and optimized combustion regimes," Jackowiak said. "In order to achieve this goal, we had to reconstruct six power units at the Turów Power Plant and modernize the other three. The new power units rely on environmentally-friendly fluidized-bed technology. The efficiency of the new power units exceeds 40 percent, up from just above 30 percent in the old units."

A key aspect of environmental protection in the power engineering industry is to release as little gas to the atmosphere as possible. The basic parameter that undergoes nonstop monitoring when power plant installations are in use is the amount of particulate matter and gaseous emissions.

After a few years of work, the Turów Power Plant has launched a new Emission Monitoring Network. The application monitors the work of individual power units, preventing them from exceeding legally permitted emission levels.

Air protection

Everywhere around the world, heat and power plants have a destructive effect on the air because of the many kinds of pollutants they discharge to the atmosphere. The most dangerous substances include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ash containing harmful elements such as lead, cadmium and arsenic. Due to the global warming effect, carbon dioxide is the most serious problem today.

The Turów Power Plant is a leading Polish company in terms of eliminating the noxious effects of lignite combustion and reducing the amount of particulate matter and gaseous emissions. Turów has achieved this status after modernizing all its power units and applying a number of new technologies. The modernization project began in 1994 and led to the upgrading of the plant's six power units, which now meet all EU emissions standards for particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.

During the modernization project, traditional pulverized-fuel boilers were replaced with more environmentally-friendly fluidized-bed boilers, as a result of which the amount of sulfur and nitrogen oxides declined by more than 90 percent. Turów removed its obsolete smokestacks, which did not comply with environmental protection standards. Instead the company installed modern equipment with mechanisms to measure pollution emissions. All the boilers were fitted with electrostatic precipitators with an efficiency of up to 99.8 percent. All the power units at Turów are covered by a program to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions. The power plant has also made several improvements to upgrade its combustion processes.

Turów has also built a new installation for desulfuring fuel with a "dry method"-by using powdered lime as the sorbing agent. In order to ensure steady supplies of powdered lime, a limestone mill was opened, with appliances to protect the atmosphere from particulate matter and gaseous emissions, complete with a special technology to prevent what is known as secondary pollution.

In 2005, the plant carried out a project entitled "Preparation of an Algorithm for Starting Up and Shutting Down Electrostatic Precipitators at Elektrownia Turów SA." The outcome is a special algorithm to control the plant's electrostatic precipitators at startup, which has made it possible to reduce emissions of particulate matter by around 60 percent.

The modernized power plant has a network to monitor changes in the environment. The network comprises eight modern measuring stations to monitor concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and suspended particulate matter as well as basic meteorological parameters, such as wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and air temperature. The data is forwarded to a central station in the plant's Department of Environmental Protection, where it is processed and stored. The procedure makes it possible to correctly evaluate the environmental condition of the region and monitor air pollution and changes in the environment.

Turów keeps track of its particulate matter and gaseous emissions on the basis of measurements performed by its Emission Monitoring Network, which gathers data from all measuring systems and compares the amounts against values permitted by law. The network makes it possible to continually monitor emission levels and optimize combustion processes in each of Turów's nine boilers.

According to a company report, in 2006 the average emission levels for particle matter and gaseous emissions at Turów were as follows: particulate matter-0.18 kg/MWh (compared with 4.94 kg/MWh in 1994), sulfur dioxide-3.47 kg/MWh (18.23 kg/MWh in 1994), and nitrogen dioxide-1.0 kg/MWh (2.24 kg/MWh in 1994).

At the moment, the plant is working on a project to build an installation for burning biomass in two power units. Preliminary research for the project was carried out several years ago, covering the preparation of the installation's design and studies on how the process would affect the boilers' performance and how biomass could be used in an efficient way as fuel for the power plant. Turów will use biomass from forests, agriculture and energy crops, totaling 180,000 tons altogether. Experts say that thanks to using biomass, the plant will emit less carbon dioxide.

Water protection

Heat and power producers cause local water resources to shrink, and they also alter the physical and chemical properties of surface waters. Moreover, they pollute surface waters with effluents generated by electrical power production and seriously affect water life.

Environmental protection experts at Turów say that the plant's modernization has made it possible to reduce water consumption and radically improve the physicochemical properties of effluents discharged by the plant. Turów has built a new waste-water treatment plant, modernized its old treatment system, renovated its boiler-water treatment facility, modernized its pipeline networks and pumping stations, and upgraded its cooling systems.

As a result of these projects, in 2006 the quality of effluents turned out to be better than expected. The plant's water quality indicators rose by 12 percent and phosphate concentration improved by 58 percent. The concentration of suspended matter, one of the basic indicators of pollution caused by industrial plants, has also stayed below acceptable limits in the past several years, decreasing 25-fold from the level recorded prior to modernization.

Waste management

Heat and power plants produce waste such as ash and slag coming from coal combustion and flue gas desulfuring. Secondary pollution is a serious problem that arises when this kind of waste is treated. To deal with this problem, Turów uses special spraying technology employing drainage water. Additionally, nearby land is fertilized and covered with rolled turf. The process is continuously monitored with regard to particulate matter and noise emissions, the effect on the ground water level, and the water's physicochemical properties. Turów is also working to dispose furnace waste in the nearby Turów Strip Mine.

Fighting noise

Turów has also managed to reduce its noise emissions. This is largely due to a program launched in the plant in 2006. Special screens mounted on exhaust fans have done the job. Noise level measurements made by an outside company last year showed that the program had produced the expected results. The measurements were made in 12 sites around the plant, showing that the noise level had decreased by up to 4dB.

What's in store

In the future, the PGE GiE group plans to continue its environmental protection efforts. "In the coming years, the corporation will invest zl.8 billion in renewable energy sources," says project manager Jan Kowalski. "We will allocate 90 percent of the amount in wind farms, both inland and offshore."

Prof. Michał Jasiulewicz, head of the Department of Socioeconomic Policy and Regional Economics at the Koszalin University of Technology in northwestern Poland, says the PGE GiE group "faces a tremendous challenge" because today the corporation produces only 1 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. This includes biomass used by the Dolna Odra and Opole Power Plants, a complex of hydroelectric power plants, and a wind farm on Kamieńsk Hill near Bełchatów.

According to experts, the Turów Power Plant has the capacity to produce green energy from biogas obtained from landfill sites.

The PGE GiE group has teamed up with scientists from the Maritime Institute in Gdańsk to work on a project calling for the construction of three wind farms on the Baltic Sea with a combined capacity of 900 MW.

Ecologists warn that, as any other type of power plant, wind farms are not entirely neutral to the environment. They are noisy, emit exhaust gases, and disturb the natural migration routes of fish, birds and mammals. Kowalski says the corporation is "fully aware of these shortcomings and will do nothing that could harm Baltic wildlife."

The Maritime Institute in Gdańsk has analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of clean energy, Kowalski added, "and concluded that building wind farms on the Baltic would definitely be an environmentally-friendly project."

Showered with praise

Turów's environmental protection agenda has won a lot of praise from various organizations and institutions. Over the past years, the company has received many awards for its environmental projects. For example, it has won the "Environmentally Friendly" competition organized under the auspices of the Polish president and environmental protection ministry. The competition selects innovative projects that have a beneficial effect on the environment. Turów has also been named an Environmentally-Friendly Company, a Polish Environmental Leader, and a Supporter of Polish Ecology-for its contribution to raising environmental awareness and promoting ecological education. In 2003, Turów was named a White Tiger in recognition of its environmentally-friendly technology for burning lignite in circulating fluidized-bed boilers. That same year in London, Turów won the international Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice, beating more than 100 other organizations and companies from around the world.

Turów CEO Roman Walkowiak collected the Prime Minister's Award for scientific and technological achievement in 2006 for his work on a project for removing ash from boilers that he carried out together with a team of Wrocław University of Technology researchers led by Prof. Eugeniusz Rusiński.

Julia Pawłowska
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