News Ticker

A suite of unique mercury control technologies developed at the EERC and patented by the EERC Foundation® has been licensed and commercialized by Midwest Energy Emissions Corp (ME2C), which has received firm commitments from major U.S. power producers for multiyear mercury pollution control for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance. ME2C’s commercialization of the EERC’s technology is a success story that illustrates what it takes to bring an energy-related technology to market.

ME2C is offering the technology to coal-fired power plants and utilities in the United States and Canada and plans to expand into Europe and China in the future. Its first market commitments are for thirteen large generating units. The EERC will provide consulting to the companies where ME2C deploys the technology.

Through its EPA-designated Center for Air Toxic Metals® (CATM®) and complementary programs, the EERC spent over 20 years establishing a solid foundation in understanding the behavior, transformation, measurement, and control of mercury in coal-fired energy conversion systems. The EERC is recognized worldwide as an expert in understanding mercury in air and in the field of mercury emission capture.

The sorbent enhancement additive (SEA) injection technology was developed by lead researcher John Pavlish, EERC Senior Research Advisor and CATM Director; Mike Holmes, Deputy Associate Director for Research; and Ed Olson, Senior Research Advisor. Former EERC Research Manager Ye Zhuang is also credited on several of the 25 issued and pending patents in the suite. The suite of technologies has proven to be effective, efficient, and flexible.

“The SEA technology has been shown to achieve mercury removal levels compliant with EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) over a broad range of plant configurations and coal types cost-effectively and with less operational impact,” said Pavlish. MATS requires that oil- and coal-fired U.S. power plants larger than 25 MW reduce their mercury emissions by approximately 90% by 2015.

The relationship with ME2C’s founder began when Rick Mac Pherson was shown the EERC’s mercury emission control technology on an unrelated visit to the EERC in 2006. The first commercialization agreement between Mac Pherson and the EERC Foundation was signed in 2009.

Many believe the hard part is over once a patent is issued, but commercializing clean energy technology typically takes much longer than innovations in other fields and can cost millions of dollars. The technology first has to be brought from the laboratory or a small-scale demonstration to a commercial-scale demonstration. If the technology works at full scale, then entrepreneurs have to scale up manufacturing and begin mass-scale deployment. Many innovative energy technologies are not able to raise the capital needed for such a large undertaking.

“In some businesses, you can have a good idea today and be able to get it out on the street sometimes in a matter of weeks. With these technologies, it is typically 10 years and often 15, because you have to demonstrate to the world that this technology really does work and that it works at full scale,” said Tom Erickson, EERC Interim Director. “Scaling up takes a lot of money, so you need investors, and people who invest usually want to see a fast turnaround with their money. It takes a lot of time for each demonstration, a lot of money, and there’s a lot of risk.”

The SEA technology was first demonstrated at a facility in the northwest United States in 2009 and has now been successfully demonstrated over 30 times at large operating power plants across the United States and Canada. Mac Pherson noted that the majority of the investment into the company to date has been from “close friends and family” who “believed wholeheartedly in who we are and what we’re doing and what our future prospects are.” He said these 200 or so people, a significant number from North Dakota, were critical to ME2C’s ability to grow and thrive.

“Although determination is necessary, it’s not impossible for those with a great work ethic to see energy technology through to commercialization if they source the right people and dedicate themselves completely to it,” said Mac Pherson, founder and director of ME2C.

“We had key people early on who contributed to our success. Marc Sylvester was my first hire, a 25-year veteran of selling to the power industry. He is still the Vice President of Sales,” said Mac Pherson. “John Norris was the past Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a national emissions control company and previously a senior executive of a number of U.S. utilities. John brought a great deal of credibility and know-how to this young firm at that stage in its growth. He serves as ME2C’s Chair of the Board of Directors. Then we hired Alan Kelley, an active senior executive in the utility industry who expanded our relationship reach into another broad spectrum of the industry. He is the CEO. Together these three major industry experts were able to help us continue our growth to the next level.”

Kelley noted that Mac Pherson did not make the mistake that many entrepreneurs make in trying to make the transition from visionary to manager. “Rick went out and hired people who he thought had the talents to run the business and make it profitable, rather than taking on that role himself.”

“We really had a terrific combination of three things that basically came together to put us in a situation where even though we were a young company, we were able to compete and grow and be successful,” Mac Pherson said. “First, we had entrepreneurial drive in the founder and start-up, which was, secondly, mixed with industry expertise, know-how, and senior management. Third, the EERC provided huge resources of technology know-how and expertise that, at that stage, we otherwise couldn’t have accessed or couldn’t have afforded to access if we were to continue developing.

“We were backed up by the EERC’s leading, world-class research and development support and technological know-how,” Mac Pherson continued. “We had the ability to continue to test, and the level of know-how that we brought with this technology to the market was multiples of times bigger and better than those of the largest corporations that were in this space. So, although we were a small company, we had huge resources within the utility sector and for the technology and patent development itself. Our research and development and technical support team was the best in the country because we had the resources of the EERC behind us.”