Reassessment of the environmental impacts of sulphur oxide emissions from power stations

29 Apr 2015

It is a deeply entrenched belief that emissions of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere are harmful to the environment, and that sulphur compounds should be removed from the gaseous wastes before discharge. The difficulties with this view are summarised. Extensive work in both North America and Europe has failed to demonstrate any of the early claims for impacts such as forest death. The claims for health effects seem unduly conservative and not supported by reliable data. There are even negative impacts from reducing sulphur emissions. Claims for high external costs associated with coal-fired power generation in South Africa are the result of arithmetic errors. The installation of flue-gas desulphurisation on the latest Eskom power station, Kusile, is shown to be completely unsustainable in the light of the minimal benefits that the considerable costs will bring.