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Greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial systems will increase by 4.1 percent by 2021, according to new data released by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The increase is the largest annual increase in emissions in more than a decade of reporting, and comes at a time when climate pollution must be urgently curbed. the world to reduce global warming.
The emissions, totaling 2.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, were self-reported to the agency by more than 8,100 of the nation’s biggest climate polluters under the agency’s campaign for the Green Specification. The emissions represent about half of all U.S. air pollution, and the annual update provides the most comprehensive, site-by-site assessment of the nation’s biggest polluters. .
The increase in emissions resulted from increased economic and industrial activity following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Although emissions from major polluters—the that means facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year—fired in 2021, 5.25 percent less than their pre-pandemic level in 2019 .
Evan Gillespie, a partner at Industrious Labs, a recently formed environmental organization focused on eliminating heavy industry, said changes in pollution must stop in order to meet reduction targets under the Paris Climate agreement.
“We can’t relate to the publications,” Gillespie said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in the next eight years to get the industry going.”
Andy Knott, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign for the central region of the country, said he is seeing a lot of progress in closing large coal-fired power plants from many, but not all, electronic devices.
“I look at the biggest carbon fiber players, most of them, the equipment they have, they don’t plan to retire it anytime soon,” Knott said. “We need to phase out all coal by 2030 and all fossil fuels in the energy sector by 2035.”
Carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change and CO2 emissions from coal and natural gas fired power plants are the largest source of emissions. However, other pollutants including methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated greenhouse gases, such as the hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigerators and air conditioners, are major sources of emissions. These “non-CO2” greenhouse gases are much more potent than carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis, and often remain in the atmosphere for a short time compared to CO2. . Preventing their emissions is important to stop the warming soon.
The following is a list of the most important land pollutants for each of the greenhouse gases that the EPA tracks. It also includes some of the top performers for different sectors of the economy.
Carbon dioxide: The James H. Miller Jr. power plant. in Quinton, Alabama will be the largest coal-fired power plant in the US for electricity generation by 2021, and is also the largest CO2 emitter in the country. The plant, owned by The Southern Company, emitted 20,834,019 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2021. The company’s executives announced plans last year to shut down nearly 80 percent of its coal capacity by 2028 on track to be net-zero by 2050. The planned closures do not include the James H. Miller plant.
Methane: The Bailey Mine, a coal mine owned by Consol Energy in southeastern Pennsylvania is the largest single source of methane in the US with 90,743 tons of methane by 2021. The immediate climate impact of the emissions are similar to greenhouse gas emissions. of 1.6 million cars, according to the EPA. Consol Energy captures and destroys additional methane emissions from the mine as part of a methane abatement program.
Oxide Hour: Ascend Performance Materials’ nylon plant in Cantonment, Florida emitted 24,657 tons of nitrous oxide in 2021, four times more nitrous oxide than any other industrial facility in the country, although the figure is still pending final EPA approval. The plant produces adipic acid, a key ingredient in nylon 6,6, a strong, durable plastic used in everything from socks to carpet, seat belts and bags. gas, and produce large amounts of nitrous oxide, an unwanted byproduct.
Nitrogen oxides are 273 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide on a pound for pound basis. Assuming current emissions are reasonable, emissions from the facility in 2021 would be equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1.5 million cars, according to the EPA. Other adipic acid plants in the US and Europe introduced abatement technologies to eliminate all nitrogen oxide emissions in the late 1990s.
Company officials told Inside Climate News in early 2020 that they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the production of adipic acid by 50 percent by mid-2020 and by more than 95 percent by in February of 2022. the plant increased by 38 percent from 2019 to 2021 according to the emission information provided by the company to the EPA. Ascend Performance Materials spokeswoman Alison Jahn did not directly respond to questions about the increase but said Ascend has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities. all by 80 percent by 2030.
Hydrofluorocarbons: Hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) is 14,600 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a pound for pound basis, making it one of the worst climate pollutants ever discovered. by scientists and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2021, chemical manufacturer Chemours will release 180 metric tons of HFC-23, a synthetic gas and unwanted byproduct, from its Louisville, Kentucky plant. The emissions, which can be eliminated by incineration, are equivalent to the annual emissions of 566,000 cars. However, HFC-23 emissions from the Louisville plant may soon be a thing of the past.
In October, 2021, EPA asked Chemours to use or destroy 99.9 percent of the HFC-23 it produces by this October. Chemours missed the deadline to complete the installation “due to supply chain issues” according to the EPA, which granted the company’s request for a 6-month extension. The company has installed and is now operating pollution controls but continues to validate and optimize the system, said Chemours spokeswoman Cassie Olszewski.
Sulfur hexafluoride: Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is 25,200 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide, making it the most potent greenhouse gas assessed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When released, SF6 remains in the atmosphere, warming the planet, for 3,200 years. Synthetic gas is used in high voltage electrical circuits to rapidly interrupt electrical current. By 2021, American Electric Power (AEP) will release 18 tons of SF6 from power stations across 10 states, emissions equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 99,000 cars. Although AEP is the largest emitter, Duke Energy Carolinas has the highest SF6 leakage rate—6 percent of all SF6 it will use in 2021—a rate more than double that of AEP.
Eighty-eight US utilities are part of a voluntary program started by the EPA in 1999 to help utilities reduce their SF6 emissions. Duke Energy, the largest energy corporation in the US by revenue, is not part of the project.
“We are working to learn more about the group [and] we’re also considering our involvement,” Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said.
Methane from Gas Storage: The Petal Gas Storage Compressor Station released 2,517 tons of methane from leaking compressors at an underground natural gas storage facility in Petal, Mississippi in 2021. Emissions from the facility decreased by 49 percent from the previous year. However, Petal’s emissions are nearly double that of other gas storage facilities in the country despite its relatively small gas storage capacity.
“Our methane abatement efforts at Petal and our system are ongoing,” Jillian Kirkconnell, a spokeswoman for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, said.
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Boardwalk owns the Petal gas storage facility and the Gulf South Pipeline – Bistineau Station gas storage facility, the second largest natural gas storage facility in the country, with 1,301 tons of methane released by 2021.
Methane from Landfills: Sampson County Disposal, a private landfill in Roseboro, North Carolina released 32,983 tons of methane, more than any other city or industry in 2021, according to company data released to the EPA. The near-term climate impact of the emissions is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 575,000 cars according to the EPA.
Joy Grahek, vice president of strategic initiatives with GFL Environmental, the landfill’s owner, said the company has implemented measures to reduce emissions and the models used by the EPA to determine in the wrong submissions.
“We have implemented a variety of management strategies and technologies to reduce landfill methane emissions, including the use of impermeable cover materials, a large gas collection system to capture landfill gas, and a flare of compressed air,” says Grahek. “The models are known to have significant uncertainty and the use of EPA Reports as a basis for determining the performance of sites to control runoff emissions is incorrect.”
Estimates of landfills vary depending on the methods operators use to calculate their emissions, and emissions may be lower by a “factor of two.”
The EPA recently announced changes to how it better calculates methane emissions from landfills.