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Institute for Combustion Science



The Emissions & Control Laboratory at Western Kentucky University (WKU) is one of the most comprehensive research laboratories in the nation, capable of performing flue gas sampling, measurement, and control of various pollutants, including: Hg, As, Se, B and other metals, sulfur trioxide, particulates, halogens and hydrogen halides, ammonia, NOx, SOx, and CO. The Emissions & Control Laboratory operates 5 mobile facilities that contain numerous analytical instruments, to provide real time, on-site, and validated information quantifying mercury and other pollutant emissions that are correlated to power plants operating parameters. All efforts are devoted to provide the most valid data possible.

 In order to comply with EPA mercury emission standards, it is critical for the power industry to determine the amount of mercury emitted from the existing control devices; however, this is not a trivial task. To get an understanding of the difficulties associated with mercury sampling, imagine a baseball field like the Houston Astrodome filled with 30 billion ping-pong balls. This represents the emission environment, but the mercury content represents only 30 of the total ping-pong balls.

Since 1999, several major utility companies have requested the WKU Emissions & Control Laboratory to perform research projects in an effort to help these companies determine the amount of mercury emitted and to identify the mercury speciation within the control processes. There have been over 30 power companies with 135 different generating units. The Emissions & Control Laboratory always invests in the latest technology for mercury analysis, such as the Mobile Monitoring Laboratory, mercury analyzers, and the continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS). Furthermore, the laboratory staff has developed operational and QA/QC procedures consistent with the EPA specification and conducted field tests in accordance with them. Specifically, the data collected from the CEMS has been validated with the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Method D6784-02, commonly known as the Ontario hydro method (OHM). A newly USEPA-proposed sorbent trap reference method (EPA method 30B) has also been adapted.

The Emissions & Control Laboratory at WKU has built an industry-wide reputation due to its highly trained personnel, up-to-date instrumentation, operational specifications reflecting the EPA requirements, and the desire for efficiency, accuracy, and a solid reputation. Since 2005, the WKU Emissions & Control Laboratory has been anticipating a substantial increase in funding, for example, the “Large Scale Mercury Control Technology Field Testing Program” awarded by the Department of Energy, the “Partitioning and Mechanism Studies for Mercury in SCR Control System” funded by EPRI, the “Long Term Evaluation of Mercury Monitoring System at Illinois Coal Fired Boilers” funded by the Institute for Clean Coal, and the “Impact of Multi-Pollution Control Devices (SCR, ESP, and FGD) on Mercury Chemistry and Transportation” funded by the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Energy Policy. As a result of these projects, one utility patent application for abatement of mercury in flue gas was filed by August 2007.

The Emissions & Control Laboratory has also developed two different sorbent testing facilities to evaluate the mercury sorbent capture efficiency during development. The results of mercury capture efficiency from the ICSET testing facility are very similar to that of full-scale tests.

Due to the approach of the implementation of CAMR, coal combustion facilities are seeking the most effective mercury control technology. The effectiveness of this control technology will be subject to restrictive verification to ensure that the Hg emission reduction goals of CAMR can be met. Based on increased awareness of environmental quality issues, as well as advanced measurement and control technologies implemented by the WKU Emission Analysis & Control Laboratory, it is expected to be another successful year for the Laboratory.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting the China Environmental Health Project (CEHP)—air program through cooperation between the Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology at Western Kentucky University and Anhui University of Science and Technology (AUST) to improve air quality monitoring and control in Huainan. ICSET is providing state-of-the-art technologies to train Chinese researchers and students about sampling and analysis of various pollutants (e.g., SOx, NOx, PM10, Hg, and Se), and assisting AUST in monitoring three power plants in Huainan using U.S. EPA methods to ensure quality of the sampling data. The CEHP aims to obtain accurate data on coal-fired pollution emissions in Huainan, as well as generate awareness among policymakers on the health dangers of coal. A strong regulatory environment and reliable monitoring are the cornerstones of a system that could drive polluters to reduce emissions. Additionally, the CEHP research findings could help persuade city policymakers to adopt measures to reduce public health problems caused by coal combustion.


Current Research Projects:

  • Emission & Leaching Potential of Mercury from Flue Gas Desulfurization Materials Amended Soil
  • Evaluation of Mercury Re-emission in Wet Flue Gas Desulfurization Slipstream Systems
  • Partitioning and Mechanism Studies for Mercury Transformation and Adsorption in SCR Slipstream System
  • Long Term Evaluation of Mercury Monitoring System at Illinois Coal Fired Boilers
  • Impact of Multi-Pollution Control Devices (SCR, ESP, and FGD) on Mercury Chemistry and Transportation
  • Development of Novel Mercury Emission Control Technologies by Simultaneous Injection of HBr and Fly-Ash-Based Adsorbents



  • Isokinetic Source Sampling Equipment
  • Continuous Mercury Emission Monitors
  • Multi-Emission Monitoring Systems (SO2, NOx, CO2,, CO, O2, NH3, N2O, and HCl)
  • Cold Vapor Atomic Florescence Spectroscopy for Mercury at parts per trillion (ppt) levels
  • Automatic Sorbent Trap Mercury Sampling Systems
  • PM2.5 and PM10 Sampling Systems
  • Direct Combustion Mercury Analyzer
  • Cold Vapor Atomic Florence Spectroscopy for Arsenic, Selenium, Antimony, Tellurium and Bismuth
  • Automated Sample Digestion Systems
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
  • Carbon, Hydrogen, Sulfur, and Nitrogen Analyzer
  • Thermogravimetric Analyzer
  • Ion Chromatography
  • Bomb Calorimeter
  • EPA Standard Method Wet-chemical Setup for Multiple Pollutants Measurement


  • Wet chemical method sampling at 6 locations simultaneously for: Hg, Halogens and Hydrogen Halides, SO3, Trace Metals, PMs and NH3
  • Quick data turn-around for OHM, EPA Method 26 A and Method 30 B sorbent trap testing (within 24 hours)
  • CEM Hg sampling at 6 locations simultaneously
  • Coal, ash & FGD sludge analysis
  • SCR catalyst slipstream testing module
  • Wet-FGD slipstream testing module
  • Five mobile laboratories allow us to analyze samples and process data on-site, drastically reducing the delay between testing and data presentation


Selected Publications:

  1. Cao, Yan; Gao, Zhengyang; Zhu, Jiashun; Wang, Quanhai; Huang, Yaji; Chui, Chengchung; Parker, Bruce; Chu, Paul; Pan, Wei-Ping; " Impact of Halogen Additions on Mercury Oxidation in a Slipstream Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR), Reactor When Burning Sub-Bituminous Coal," Environmental Science & Technology, 2008, 46, 256-261.
  2. Wu, Jiang; Cao, Yan; Pan, Wiguo; Shen, Minqiang; Ren, Jianxing; Du, Yuying; He, Ping; Wang, Du; Xu, Jingjing; Wu, Andy; Li, Songgeng; Lu, Ping; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Evaluation of Mercury Sorbent in a Lab-Scale Multiphase Flow Reactor, A Pilot-Scale Slipstream Reactor and Full-Scale power Plant,” Chemical Engineering Science, 2008, 63, 782-790.
  3. Cao, Yan; Wang, Quanhai; Chen, Chien-wei; Chen, Bobby; Cohron, Martin; Tseng, Y-chuan; Chu, Paul; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Investigation of Mercury Transformation by HBr Addition in a Slipstream Reactor with Real Flue Gas Atmospheres of Bituminous Coal and Powder River Basin (PRB) Coal,” Energy & Fuels, 2007, 21(5), 2719-2730.
  4. Yan Cao, Bobby Chen, Jiang Wu, Hong Cui, John Smith, Chi-Kuan Chen, Paul Chu and Wei-Ping Pan, “Study of Hg Oxidation by Selective Catalytic Reduction Catalyst in a Pilot-scale Slipstream Reactor at a Utility Boiler Burning Bituminous Coal,” Energy & Fuels, 2007, 21, 145-156.
  5. Li, Sen; Cheng, Chin-Min; Chen, Bobby; Cao, Yan; Vervcynckt, Jacob*; Adebambo, Amanda*; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Investigation of the Relationship between Particulate Bound Mercury and Properties of Fly Ash in a Full-scale 100 MWe Pulverized Coal Combustion Boiler,” Energy & Fuels, 2007, 21(6), 3292-99.


 Jason Chen & Bianca




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 Last Modified 12/5/18