M.S. Thesis: Effect of Mercury Emissions in China on North America

By Brian Weiss

Advisors: Profs. Nickolas J. Themelis and A.C. (Thanos) Bourtsalas

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

December 16, 2004 (revised August 2005)

In general, it has been shown that the economic benefits of industrialization have deleterious effects on the quality of the environment. Political regulation, however, often ameliorates the most serious problems, but at a substantial cost. In a study of this type, the effect of mercury emissions by China on North America (NA) and, in particular, the emissions from coal-fired power plants was investigated. A Hg inventory for China indicated that China emits ten times more total Hg than the US and as much as four times more Hg per ton of coal burned. The intercontinental transport of this mercury was shown to increase the flux of Hg over the US up to four times. Pollution control technologies were reviewed and their costs were estimated. In response to recent legislation that would cap US power plant mercury emissions, two scenarios were proposed: one where the US enhances its existing fluegas cleanup technology and one where the US invests in first-generation pollution control in China. It is concluded that the first scenario will cost $28 – 37 billion and could reduce Hg fluxes over the US by 25 tons / yr. The second scenario will cost $41 – 73 billion and could reduce Hg fluxes over NA by as many as 323 tons / yr.

Download Thesis (pdf)

Share this post