New particle formation in the fresh flue-gas plume from a coal-fired power plant: effect of flue-gas cleaning
Abstract. Atmospheric emissions, including particle number and size distribution, from a 726 MWth coal-fired power plant were studied experimentally from a power plant stack and flue-gas plume dispersing in the atmosphere. Experiments were conducted under two different flue-gas cleaning conditions. The results were utilized in a plume dispersion and dilution model taking into account particle formation precursor (H2SO4 resulted from the oxidation of emitted SO2) and assessment related to nucleation rates. The experiments showed that the primary emissions of particles and SO2 were effectively reduced by flue-gas desulfurization and fabric filters, especially the emissions of particles smaller than 200 nm in diameter. Primary pollutant concentrations reached background levels in 200–300 s. However, the atmospheric measurements indicated that new particles larger than 2.5 nm are formed in the flue-gas plume, even in the very early phases of atmospheric ageing. The effective number emission of nucleated particles were several orders of magnitude higher than the primary particle emission. Modelling studies indicate that regardless of continuing dilution of the flue gas, nucleation precursor (H2SO4 from SO2 oxidation) concentrations remain relatively constant. In addition, results indicate that flue-gas nucleation is more efficient than predicted by atmospheric aerosol modelling. In particular, the observation of the new particle formation with rather low flue-gas SO2 concentrations changes the current understanding of the air quality effects of coal combustion. The results can be used to evaluate optimal ways to achieve better air quality, particularly in polluted areas like India and China.