Reduction of atmospheric emissions due to switching from fuel oil to natural gas at a power plant in a critical area in Central Mexico

Elizabeth Vega Rangel, Rodolfo Sosa Echeverría

Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association |

Autores: Rodolfo Sosa E., Elizabeth Vega , Ann Wellens, Mónica Jaimes, Gilberto Fuentes G, Elías Granados H., Ana Luisa Alarcón J., María del Carmen Torres B, Pablo Sánchez A., Sergio Rosas A. &Evelin Mateos D. *

* Ciencias Ambientales | Contaminación Ambiental



case study was conducted to evaluate the SO2 emission reduction in a power plant in Central Mexico, as a result of the shifting of fuel oil to natural gas. Emissions of criteria pollutants, greenhouse gases, organic and inorganic toxics were estimated based on a 2010 report of hourly fuel oil consumption at the “Francisco Pérez Ríos” power plant in Tula, Mexico. For SO2, the dispersion of these emissions was assessed with the CALPUFF dispersion model. Emissions reductions of > 99% for SO2, PM and Pb, as well as reductions >50% for organic and inorganic toxics were observed when simulating the use of natural gas. Maximum annual (993 µg/m3) and monthly average SO2 concentrations were simulated during the cold-dry period (152–1063 µg/m3), and warm-dry period (239–432 µg/m3). Dispersion model results and those from Mexico City’s air quality forecasting system showed that SO2 emissions from the power plant affect the north of Mexico City in the cold-dry period. The evaluation of model estimates with 24 hr SO2 measured concentrations at Tepeji del Rio suggests that the combination of observations and dispersion models are useful in assessing the reduction of SO2 emissions due to shifting in fuels. Being SO2 a major precursor of acid rain, high transported sulfate concentrations are of concern and low pH values have been reported in the south of Mexico City, indicating that secondary SO2 products emitted in the power plant can be transported to Mexico City under specific atmospheric conditions.

Implications: Although the surroundings of a power plant located north of Mexico City receives most of the direct SO2 impact from fuel oil emissions, the plume is dispersed and advected to the Mexico City metropolitan area, where its secondary products may cause acid rain. The use of cleaner fuels may assure significant SO2 reductions in the plant emissions and consequent acid rain presence in nearby populated cities and should be compulsory in critical areas to comply with annual emission limits and health standards.