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EPA Issues Final Permit to PREPA for Re-Powering Project

Release Date: 03/24/2000
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(#00048) San Juan, Puerto Rico -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its permit for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's (PREPA) re-powering project in San Juan. In response to public concerns and new information about the best way to control nitrogen oxide emissions from oil-fired power plants, the Agency had made changes to the draft permit to allow PREPA to increase the electric generating capacity at its San Juan Power Plant and lower total emissions by replacing two, decades-old, 44 megawatt boilers with two 232-megawatt combined cycle turbines. In addition to installing the new turbines, PREPA will install special burners to control nitrogen oxide emissions from four old boilers remaining in service. While this change will increase nitrogen oxide emissions over the levels under the original draft permit, the emissions will still be at lower levels than those from the old plant.

"By installing new turbines and better controlling pollution from the old ones, the pollution emitted from PREPA's Palo Seco plant will be significantly reduced from when the plant operated using all old boilers with no nitrogen oxide controls," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "In fact, due to some changes EPA made to our proposed permit, this final permit further decreases, from the original proposed permit, two pollutants of particular concern in the San Juan area sulfuric acid mist and fine particles."

In its draft permit, proposed in March 1999, EPA included Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which uses an ammonia injection system to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, and steam injection. However, new data indicate that, on oil-fired turbines, SCR cannot consistently achieve the expected reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions. As a result, EPA has removed the SCR requirement and will instead require PREPA to install special burners, called "low NOx burners," on the four old boilers at its facility. PREPA would still use steam injection on its turbines.

"After carefully considering the feasibility of using SCR on an oil-fired plant and reviewing public comments, the choice to remove SCR was clear," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "We want to ensure that PREPA uses the most reliable pollution controls. Steam injection systems and low NOx burners are both tried and true nitrogen oxide controls."