Sunday, August 29, 2004

Coal-fired power plant
Questions on safety to environment

Business World

By ELLEN P. RED, Correspondent

Technical experts from Japan noted that the project's environmental plan falls short of criteria set for modern coal-fired plants.

Power consumers of Cagayan de Oro City are hopeful that the coal-fired power plant project in the nearby town of Villanueva, would alleviate a foreseen supply shortage starting next year.

Local and foreign environmentalists, however, claimed that the project would pose a major hazard to ecosystems.

Technical experts from Japan noted that the project's environmental plan falls short of criteria set for modern coal-fired plants.

In a comparative study made by Friends of the Earth-Japan on projected emissions of the coal-fired power plant and three Japanese coal plants, it was noted that the project is not using the best technically available system to counter pollution effects.

It said that the sulfur oxides emission will be five times compared to Hekinan 1, a coal-fired plant in Aichi, Japan.

Hekinan 1 has the most advanced pollution control measure in Japan. The power plant is also projected to have eight times higher nitrogen oxide emission compared to Hekinan 1, the study added.

The Mindanao project, Friends of the Earth-Japan said, is even more pollutant than the Nakoso 7 coal-fired power plant in Fukushima, Japan, which was established in the 1970s.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace, in another report, said coal-fired power stations are dirty and dangerous sources of electricity.

"Besides being extremely dirty, the burning of coal is an industrial process that creates huge quantities of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing global warming."

In August 2001, Greenpeace issued a report detailing the mercury emission of coal plants.

Evidence was provided by fly ash samples taken from the 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Calaca, Batangas.

Mercury was detected in at least four fly ash samples that Greenpeace sent for testing to a commercial laboratory.

Mercury is a lethal neurotoxin that it only takes 1/70th of a teaspoon to contaminate a 10.11-hectare lake, to the point that fish caught in the lake are considered unfit for human consumption, Greenpeace claimed.

Kim Gargar, spokesman of the People's Campaign Against the Mindanao Coal-Fired Power Plant, said, "The dangers posed by gas emissions and other toxic wastes to human health are enough reasons to junk the multi-million dollar project."

Ms. Gargar said the coal-fired power plant operation would be a threat to the biodiversity of the Macajalar Bay, where fishes, seaweeds, and corals would be affected due to thermal and chemical changes in the water.


Regional planning officials have said the project was envisioned to help Mindanao cope with the shortfall of electric power supply by 2006 as projected by the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

The proposed power plant is among the projects in the Department of Energy's 2002-2011 energy plan.

It received favorable recommendations from local legislative bodies, the regional development council (RDC), National Economic and Development Authority, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The proposed coal power plant will be in a 55-hectare lot within the Phividec Industrial Estate in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.

The project will be implemented under the build-operate-transfer scheme, whereby Napocor, under a power purchase agreement deal, will buy from the project proponent the generated electrical power within a 25-year cooperation period at guaranteed levels of performance. After 25 years, the ownership of the plant shall be turned over to the Napocor at no cost.

State Investment and Trust, Inc., a subsidiary of State Power Development Corp. (SPDC), won the bidding for the construction and 25-year operation of the 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant.

The company is a joint venture of SPDC and Steag AG, a German company with a long experience in coal power plants.

Based on a document submitted to the Misamis Oriental provincial board, the project proponent claims of state-of-the-art pollution mitigating devices for the plant.

The project proponent said the power plant would use coal with low sulfur and ash content and would install desulfurization plant, filter bag system and ash disposal area to "effectively reduce the concentration of the emissions and meet the prescribed limits."

The desulfurization plant is said to reduce the sulfur oxides emitted during the combustion of coal, while the filter bag system is said to separate particulate matter from the gaseous emissions.

As to effluents control, the project proponent said wastewater from the boiler area, fire fighting and filter flushing water will be discharged to the preliminary basin for temporary storage.

"Water quality of the combined effluent will be analyzed and treated on-site using the best available technology to ensure that all discharges will conform with DENR standards," the project proponent said. "Thermal effluents generated by the cooling water system will be discharged to the sea."

As stated in the environmental impact statement and other documents submitted by the project proponent, the estimated project cost is $300 million.

The technical secretariat of the RDC-Region 10 infrastructure/utilities development committee, in its report dated June 17, 2002, said out of the $300-million cost, 25% would be the equity of the project proponent, and 75% will be financed through loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and KFW, a public export bank of Germany.

To date, construction of the plant has yet to start as the loans from the two banks, although approved, have yet to be released.

Meanwhile, Noboru Usami, a member of the Japanese Diet (parliament), recently conducted an investigation on the issues surrounding the plant.

In a press conference, Mr. Usami said the Japanese government, through the Ministry of Finance, has supervisory power over the Japan bank that is financing $110 million of the plant's $300-million cost.

Mr. Usami said his findings on the project will be submitted to the Diet for scrutiny.


No comments: