First IPPC reference documents finalised

Seville bureau highlights strict NOx standards for cement kilns as "major advance"

An EU-wide consultation exercise to identify the "best available techniques" for controlling environmental impacts from environmentally significant industrial processes has produced its first tangible results, according to the bureau set up to oversee the process. Two brefs - or best available technology reference documents - for the iron and steel and cement and lime industries are now ready for final adoption by the European Commission.

Brefs are intended to explain in detail how industries will have to apply best available techniques (BAT) required under the 1996 integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive (see separate article).

According to the European IPPC bureau, which coordinates the process of drafting brefs, a key development in completion of the first two brefs is the inclusion of tight environmental standards in the cement industry document. These represented a "major advance" for controlling emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), an official said, and could force some technologies out of the market.

Under the bref, cement kilns will be operating to BAT only if their NOx emissions are between 200-500 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3). Until the process of writing the bref began, the official said, NOx controls had largely been ignored by the industry. Emission levels from the EU's 400-odd kilns commonly exceed 1,200 mg/m3 and in some cases reach 3,000 mg/m3.

Implementing the BAT will mean that some cement kiln technologies - mainly "wet-process" ones - will become obsolete. Because of this, the official said, the process had turned into a "political fireball," with some countries fighting to avoid such a strict standard. In particular, he said, German authorities had fought to maintain their own standard of 800 mg/m3. The final agreement on a lower range was a "huge step forward".

Despite mainly setting tougher emission limits as BAT in both brefs - in particular for dust - some compromises have been struck, such as in the BAT level of emissions of dioxins and furans from iron and steel furnaces, the official said. A proposed limit of 0.1 nanograms per cubic metre (ng/m3) was relaxed to a range of 0.1-0.5 ng/m3 because it was considered too difficult to ensure that scrap iron and steel was free from contamination, especially in southern EU countries far from main scrap metal markets.

Follow Up:
European IPPC Bureau, tel: +34 95 4488 284; see also the Iron and Steel bref and the Cement and Lime bref.

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