It is the first such facility in New Jersey, the only one in the Northeast, and one of only 15 in the nation using the technology.
The flue gas desulfurization "scrubber" system is expected to reduce by up to 75 percent sulfur dioxide emissions into the air from the power plant. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, suffocating gas responsible for a significant amount of air pollution, according to environmentalists. It was targeted in 1990 in amendments to the Clean Air Act.
State DEP Commissioner Robert C. Shinn commended the utility for being the first in New Jersey to establish such a facility, responding "to the Clean Air Act in a timely and responsible manner."
"Industries such as Atlantic Electric help lead the way to a cleaner environment by utilizing innovative technology and establishing partnerships with government and the environmental community," Shinn said.
Housed in a brick building next to one of the station's two coal-fired boilers, the new "scrubber" system converts sulphur dioxide into gypsum through a series of processes on a conveyor belt arrangement that begins with a boiler full of the gas and ends with tractor trailer trucks carting away the recycled material.
In between, the sulphur dioxide gas moves through a series of pipes as it makes it way to an absorber tank where it is passed through a limestone and water combination called "slurry." As a spray, this slurry comes in contact with the flue gases and scrubs out the sulphur dioxide by absorbing it in a solid and water-insoluable form that becomes a byproduct called gypsum, a plasterlike substance with a limestone base.
The remaining clean gas and water mist are vented through the plant's chimney as a non-noxious puffy white plume.
About 65 gallons of water per minute is used in the process, which draws groundwater from the Kirkwood aquifer 750 feet below the plant.
"We constructed this facility in response to a world that continues to change," said Jerrold L. Jacobs, president and CEO of Atlantic Electric. ''The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments mandated reductions in sulfur dioxide
from air emissions. We evaluated several alternatives and the scrubber was deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to comply."
Jacobs said that besides complying with the mandates, the utility is going a step further by creating a by-product that can be recycled instead of landfilled.
The high-grade gypsum produced in the process is being sold to National Gypsum of Burlington, which will use the product in the manufacture of wallboard used in the construction of buildings. A lower-grade gypsum, also being produced, is being used by VFL Technologies Inc. of Malvern, Pa., in roadbed construction.
The B.L. England station set trends nearly 25 years ago years when it became the first coal burning electric generating plant in the United States to convert to the use of crude oil.
During the Arab oil embargo in 1973 the station again used coal and became the first plant to use a "natural draft" salt water cooling tower. Most other stations use machines to cool the water released back into the environment.
It's also where a test burn of rubber tire chips and coal was successfully conducted late last year. The process is expected to reduce significantly the dumping in landfills of more than 7.8 million used tires annually.
Atlantic Electric provides power to more than 475,000 customers in southern New Jersey from the Beesley's Point Station and another located in Deepwater on the banks of the Delaware River in Salem County.