Under surveillance

26th August 2016


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Agriculture ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Energy ,
  • Manufacturing


Luke Fitzsimmons

Monitoring emissions to air and water is key to complying with environmental permits. the environmentalist looks at recent developments, including the possible implications of Brexit

Legislation, standards and technology are vital players in the effective monitoring of emissions to air, water and land.

The decision of UK voters to reject continuing EU membership could have implications for all of these, among them permit conditions for installations covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which recast seven directives, including the one on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). The conditions refer to ‘best available techniques’ (BAT) for the site or installation and the measures to be followed to prevent or minimise emissions and their impact on the environment. BAT conclusions – which are mandatory in the permitting process and derogations harder to obtain – cover associated monitoring and reference documents, commonly known as BREFs. These may contain emission limits (BAT AELs) that operators must comply with.

Standards, though voluntary, could also be affected by the UK leaving the EU. These set best practice and ensure the quality of monitoring equipment and systems. Advances in software, including the emergence of apps and technology such as miniature sensors, fuel the development of new equipment (see p23) but regulation, much of it derived from Brussels, also drives system innovation.

Brexit may have implications for the development of standards, although BSI is aiming to remain in CEN

Brexit effect?

Dave Curtis, director at the Source Testing Association (STA), which represents more than 200 organisations, ranging from process operators, regulators, and equipment suppliers to test laboratories, says Brexit and its implications for monitoring industrial emissions has been a topic of conversation, including in meetings with the Environment Agency. But the consensus is business as usual. ‘The view is that we continue to comply as long as the UK is a member of the EU,’ he says.

Nonetheless, it is a European Commission-led system, the Sevilla process, that produces BREFs. Lawyers at Clifford Chance say that, post Brexit, the government could revert to the cost-benefit model that operated under the UK integrated permitting regime before the IPPC Directive (now part of the IED) was enacted. ‘Given that BREFs would no longer formally apply, the UK might also have to design a whole new set of technical guidance,’ they warn.

Curtis believes it is unlikely that the UK will develop its own set of BREFs, not least because Defra and the Environment Agency do not have the resources to do so: ‘The majority of BREFs are complete and I would expect people in the UK to keep using them.’

Indeed, most BREFs have been or are being finalised. The implementing decision establishing the BAT conclusions for the non-ferrous metals industry (2016/1032) and the wastewater and waste gas treatment/management systems in the chemical sector (2016/902) were published in the Official Journal of the European Union in June. The draft BREF on large combustion plants (LCP) was issued on 28 June; comment must be in by 23 September. Meanwhile, work on the revised BREF on waste incineration is expected to be complete next year.

Currently, 31 BREFs (plus two reference documents) have been developed under the IPPC Directive and the IED, ranging from ceramic manufacturing to the production wood-based panelling. BREFs are legally binding under the IED. The Seville-based, European IPPC Bureau (EIPPCB), which co-ordinates work on generating a BREF, says the development of the documents at EU level is considered to be an efficient exercise because, in their absence, every member state would have to conduct one.

These documents take several years to finalise and tend to be lengthy. The BREFs for the production of cement, lime and magnesium oxide and the production of pulp, paper and board run to 506 and 906 pages respectively, while the draft document for waste treatement stretches to 1,030 pages.

BREFs are used by competent authorities in member states, such as the Environment Agency in the UK, to determine operating permits for installations that represent a significant pollution risk. These include information on monitoring. Environmental permitting regulations refer to BAT conclusions and BREFs, and require the regulator to ensure that it takes into account developments in best available techniques and new or updated BAT conclusions when setting permit conditions.

One facet of the BREFs process that could suffer from Brexit is the role and influence of UK experts. For each BREF, the EIPPCB sets up a technical working group (TWG) to exchange information on BATs. Each TWG consists of technical experts representing member states, industries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that promote environmental protection and the representatives of the European Commission. To participate in the information exchange, members must be nominated according to their technical, economic, environmental and regulatory expertise, especially in permitting or inspecting industrial installations. Also important is their ability to bring to the table the BREF end-user perspective.

Reciprocity of market access across 33 CEN countries frees UK industry from unnecessary trading burdens

The group usually consists of between 40 and 100 experts, and their work generally lasts up to three years. Marianne Wenning, director for quality of life, water and air at DG Environment, reported last year that the TWG for the LCP BREF review comprised 270 experts, 580 plant level questionnaires, reports and site visits, and 8,500 comments on the first draft, which was published in 2013. UK involvement has been extensive: 500 comments have been contributed to the original ‘wish list’, data has come from about 40 plants, and representatives of Sepa and energy companies, among others, have also provided input.

BAT conclusions are based on techniques already used by the relevant sector, such as the mechanical and biological treatment of rubbish in the waste industry. The BREF documents also refer to emerging techniques that, if commercially developed, could provide the same or higher general level of protection of the environment and more cost savings than prevailing BATs. These novel methods may eventually become BATs themselves.

UK involvement in the Sevilla process after Brexit would be curtailed and its influence diminished. This would be the case even if the UK joins the European Economic Area.

Directives such as the IED would continue to apply, but the UK would have little influence over new rules. Business organisations, including BDI in Germany, want changes to the BREF process but Brexit could exclude the UK from talks.

Setting standards

The Environment Agency’s Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS) provides guidelines on the standards site operators need to meet to monitor processes that affect the environment and ensure compliance with EU legislation. The scheme covers monitoring equipment and competence of staff.

Most of the requirements under MCERTS comply with European or international standards. For example, the performance standards, test procedures and general requirements for CEMs comply with CEN standard EN 15267. CEN is the European Committee for Standardization and it is mandatory for European member states to adopt its standards and to withdraw any of their own that conflict.

Brexit may have implications for the development of standards. CEN and CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) bring together the standards agencies of 33 countries and work with the commission to ensure benchmarks correspond with EU legislation. BSI, the British standards organisation, is a full member of CEN and CENELEC. It has stressed that while negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU continue it is business as usual, including all aspects of its standards making, policy and strategy work. ‘BSI’s ambition is that the UK should continue to participate in the European standardisation system,’ it said in a statement. ‘We are confident that a UK exit from the EU will not affect BSI’s membership of ISO [International Organization for Standardization], IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] and ETSI [European Telecommunications Standards Institute].’

In a post-referendum webinar, BSI director of standards Scott Steedman confirmed that the body did not expect its relationship with its European partners to change in the short term. ‘UK experts have input into European standards and have a say into which international ones are adopted by CEN and CENELEC. This will remain the case,’ he said. His colleague, national and European policy manager Richard Collin, reported that more than 500 UK experts were either committee chairs or convenors of working groups.

Curtis points out that a country can be a member of CEN without being in the EU. As well as the national standardisation bodies in the 28 EU countries, CEN members include Macedonia, Turkey and the three countries in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA): Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Collin says BSI will remain in CEN and CENELEC should the UK join the EEA or EFTA. If the UK were to default to World Trade Organization rules, changes to CEN/CENELEC statutes would probably be necessary to allow BSI to remain a member of both bodies. ‘Much will depend on the political settlement,’ says Steedman, emphasising that BSI has no plans to bring back British standards that have been supplanted by European ones.

A complete departure from the EU would put at risk UK input into the development of standards for emissions monitoring equipment. One such advance is the proposed CEN standard for predictive emission monitoring systems (PEMS), which are used primarily to determine NOx emissions from combustion processes. Representatives from a number of European countries, including the UK, are drafting it. BSI has asked working group chairs and convenors to report any problems they encounter.

Going it alone

China and India are the emerging – and potentially big – markets for suppliers of emissions monitoring testing services and equipment, says Curtis. Indeed, the STA is helping officials in India compile guidance notes. However, a complete break from the EU would be risky for UK firms, although most UK-based suppliers of emissions monitoring equipment and services are now owned by multinationals.

In the BSI webinar, Steedman warned that any divergence from single market standards would add to industry costs. ‘Reciprocity of market access across 33 countries frees UK industry from unnecessary trading burdens,’ he said.

Changing technology

The Environment Agency’s Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS) ensures equipment is of the required standard to comply with legislation and warns process operators on what to avoid when buying systems. CSA Group operates the MCERTS scheme on behalf of the agency. The Deeside-based company maintains a register of all MCERTS products for:

  • continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS);
  • continuous ambient air monitoring systems (CAMS);
  • CAMS and MCERTS for UK particulate matter (Defra approval);
  • indicative ambient particulate monitors; portable emission monitoring systems;
  • continuous water monitoring systems; part 1 – automatic water sampling equipment; part 2 – online analysers; and part 3 – water flowmeters;
  • portable water monitoring equipment; and
  • environmental data management software.

CSA told the environmentalist in August that 198 products had received MCERTS over the past 12 months and that the average number of certifications in each of the past three years was 183. These figures indicate the scale of innovation in the sector.

Most of the progress in emissions monitoring equipment are in computerisation and data gathering, says Dave Curtis at the Source Testing Association. Many changes are in response to regulatory demands or to address specific problems. Delegates at the emissions monitoring conference CEM 2016 in Lisbon in May were told that the proposed PEMS standard (see above) would be important for regulatory emissions reporting in Europe. Rick Hackney, principal performance engineer at Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, said a regulatory framework had been in place in the US for many years, where PEMS was widely used. However, its principles are now being adopted in the UK.

Siemens is trialling a prototype PEMS system alongside a CEMS at a National Grid site to assess its suitability in predicting nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide over a range of operating and ambient conditions, comparing them with actual values taken by a dedicated CEMS. Hackney said the minimum expectation was that the prototype PEMS should deliver results in line with the requirements for CEMS in annex 5 Pt III of the Industrial Emissions Directive.

Australian company Ecotech announced in March the launch of its direct nitrogen dioxide (NO2) analyser. It described the cavity-attenuated phase shift technology in the Serinus 60 as a ‘game changer’ and said concern about poor air quality in cities had shifted attention to monitoring NO2 pollution. ‘Never has measurement of NO2 been more important, or higher on the agenda, for environmental protection,’ said managing director Nicholas Dal Sasso. ‘NO2 is one of the four criteria gases that must be monitored and measured worldwide, precisely because of its harmful nature.’

The growing use of smart devices has prompted the development of monitoring apps. In June, Finnish company Gasmet announced that its app gas monitoring was available free on both iOS and Android smartphones. It contains a link to a library of information on more than 500 compounds. A dew point calculator predicts water and sulphuric acid concentrations provided by the user, helping stack testers and process engineers prevent problems relating to sample condensation.

Antti Heikkilä, export manager at Gasmet Europe, says the app provides users of the firm’s FTIR analysers with fast access to commonly requested information. It can also be used in emissions monitoring, regardless of the analyser.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Four in five shoppers willing to pay ‘sustainability premium’

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close