The cost of complying with tougher Environmental Protection Agency air-quality standards with portable tooling solutions could spur an increased shift away from coal and toward natural gas for electricity generation, according to a new Duke University study.

Stricter regulations on sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and mercury may make nearly two-thirds of the nations coal-fired power plants as expensive to run as plants powered by natural gas.

Because of the cost of upgrading plants to meet the EPA’s pending emissions regulations and its stricter enforcement of current regulations, natural gas plants would become cost-competitive with a majority of coal plants — even if natural gas becomes more than four times as expensive as coal, said Lincoln F. Pratson, a professor of earth and ocean sciences at Dukes Nicholas School of the Environment.

Mactech’s Take:
Coal to gas plant switching will become crucial as more and more power plants see the need to focus on natural gas as their main fuel source. The United States is domestically loaded with both, but these new regulations will end up deciding how “expensive” each fuel source actually is.

Coal fired power generation plants used to provide around 49% of consumed electricity in the United States, but with the decrease in natural gas price per BTU we are seeing more conversion. Mactech supports both the coal industry and the power plant industry, providing portable tooling solutions and contract technical expertise.

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