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Stricter federal emissions rules, intended to make exhaust from the nation's smokestacks cleaner will be a boon to providers of pollution-reduction technology for coal-fired power plants. Companies that make systems for filtering out pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide will see a surge in demand for their equipment as new standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year are being phased in as early as January 2012.  The new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule proposed in March is set to be finalized on December 16.

The proposed rules include a requirement that power plants using coal reduce emissions of mercury by as much as 90% over the next three years, with the goal of preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths from pollution. As utilities rush to comply with the stricter standards and keep their older plants online longer, the market for pollution control and monitoring technology could more than double, to $10 billion in 2014 from $4 billion now, according to the Institute of Clean Air Companies, a trade group.

Fuel Tech Inc. of Warrenville, Illinois, which sells technology for reducing nitrogen-oxide emissions, had $21 million in new orders in the third quarter, up from $8.8 million in the year-earlier quarter.  ADA Environmental Solutions, of Littleton, Colo., predicts the creation of a $700 million market for mercury-reduction technologies over the next three years as a result of the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule proposed in March and set to be finalized on Dec. 16.

The main driver: the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which the EPA finalized in July. The rule requires 27 states in the eastern half of the U.S. to reduce power-plant emissions that contribute to ozone, including nitrogen oxide. The reductions must begin in January 2012 with targets achieved by 2014.

Analysts say emissions-control technologies like those sold by ADA and Fuel Tech could be vital for utilities by enabling them to keep older plants operating longer, as well as for the coal industry, which faces growing competition from cleaner-burning natural gas being unearthed from deep shale deposits.
(WSJ, 12/5/2011)