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Fógra nuachta2 Iúil 2021

New EU environmental norms for the chemical industry

The establishment of new environmental criteria affecting the emissions to air of around 5.000 chemical installations concluded today.

The new norm contains ambitious proposals to curb emissions to air from the main contributors in the European chemical industry.
The new norm contains ambitious proposals to curb emissions to air from the main contributors in the European chemical industry.
© Andras, adobe stock 2021

The establishment of new environmental criteria affecting the emissions to air of around 5.000 chemical installations concluded today.

Among other relevant aspects to reduce emissions to air arising from the chemical sector in Europe, the proposal includes stricter binding levels for volatile organic compounds (VOC), with particular attention to carcinogenic or toxic substances.

This is part of the results of a seven-day meeting of the dedicated technical working group composed of Member State representatives, industrial associations, environmental NGOs and services of the European Commission, which debated between 15 June and 2 July.

Stakeholders discussed and concluded on the Best Available Techniques for Waste Gas Management and Treatment Systems in the Chemical Sector (the so-called WGC BREF).

Led by the European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau (EIPPCB) of the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) of Seville, this technical working group has concluded on, among other issues, proposals for new emission standards for 29 key air pollutants of the chemical industry sector.

Member States will have to approve this proposal before its formal adoption by the European Commission in the coming months.

After its publication, the document will become the new environmental reference for the chemical sector.

The national environmental competent authorities will have a strict 4 years period to update the environmental permits of the existing chemical installations concerned to align to the new norm.

This means that around 5.000 chemical installations in Europe will have to review and adjust their procedures and operating conditions. With this package, the European Commission will take another step towards its Zero Pollution ambition, advancing into one of the Green Deal’s headline actions.

The new norm contains ambitious proposals to curb emissions to air from the main contributors in the European chemical industry.

In addition to the new criteria on VOC emissions, it introduces a new approach underpinned by a management system for preventing, reducing and quantifying diffuse emissions (such as leaks from equipment). This is a major step forward because diffuse emissions may sometimes represent more than 90% of the total emissions from chemical installations.

It also establishes specific emission caps for the production of polymers, such as PVC or polyethylene. In addition, it reinforces monitoring measure and surveillance programmes for tracking the trends and evolution of the expected emission reductions. All of these proposals mainly focus on emissions to air of VOCs, dust, and other pollutants such as ammonia, or nitrogen oxides.

Chemical activities, e.g. the production of organic compounds, the production of polymers or the production of pharmaceuticals are large emitters of VOCs with about 40 000 tonnes emitted to air each year.

This represents 17.5% of the VOC emissions emitted from all (agro-)industrial activities covered under the Industrial Emissions Directive. VOC emissions are harmful to the environment and can be dangerous to human health.

The new WGC BREF is part of the series of chemical reference documents adopted by the European Commission under the framework of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED):

  • Production of Chlor-alkali;
  • Common Waste Water and Waste Gas Treatment/Management Systems in the Chemical Sector;
  • Production of Large Volume Organic Chemicals.

A BREF on the Production of Large Volume Inorganic Chemicals, which will complete the chemical BREFs under the framework of the Industrial Emissions Directive, is in the work programme of the EIPPCB and expected to start soon.

The work of the technical group will support the proposal for revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive. A public consultation was conducted and the Commission is currently analysing the results. The aim is to update the EU rules on industrial emissions to ensure industry uses techniques that create a more sustainable EU economy, and a cleaner environment that improves public health.

Background

EU Member States, industry, environmental NGOs and services of the Commission co-create together the environmental norms for each agro-industrial sector.

The European Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau (EIPPCB), of the Joint Research Centre’s Unit B5, leads and coordinates what is often referred to as the Sevilla process in which each working group updates the existing standards and defines new ones that can be achieved with state of the art processes and technologies, the Best Available Techniques.

Best Available Techniques are first proposed by the EIPPCB based on an extensive, inclusive and transparent exchange of information between stakeholders and these are then debated and discussed during several days between experts and agreed by consensus, for the latter inclusion in the reference documents on Best Available Techniques (the BREFs), used worldwide. After this, Member States vote on the environmental standards resulting from the experts’ discussion, and there is a formal adoption by the European Commission.

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Dáta foilsithe
2 Iúil 2021