The Medium Combustion Plant Directive and Abatement

It’s estimated that there are around 143,000 medium combustion plants (MCPs) in the EU. On November 25th, 2015, the European Parliament signed a new directive to tackle the issue of regulating emission limits from medium combustion plants. These include SO2, NOx and dust that are released into the air.

The MCPD aims to reduce these emissions and the risks to human health and the environment they can cause and lays down the rules to monitor emissions of carbon monoxide (CO). It was proposed as part of the Clean Air Policy Package in 2013 to help regulate pollutant emissions from the combustion of fuels in plants with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 1MWth and less than 50MWth.

Emissions are typically defined as flow, particulates and gas concentrations of stack gas emissions. The ELVs (Emissions Limit Value) have been brought in as a standard measurement for MCPs to limit the emissions, with the aim of reducing pollution in the atmosphere.

The directive will fill the unregulated gap that exists at EU level between smaller appliances (less than 1MW) and large combustion plants (over 50MW). A new MCP is a combustion unit that was first fired on or after 20th December 2018, anything used before that is termed as an existing plant.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 SI 110 were published in January 2018 to transpose the requirements of the MCPD from 2015. Any piece of equipment that burns fuel, with very few exceptions, and where the rated thermal input (gross fuel input) is between 1 and 50MW (this is applicable to each individual unit).

Diesel and gas engine generators rated above 400kVA are also applicable, as well as any appliance that uses fuel to generate heat or electricity. It also applies to boilers, generators and other mobile plants rated above 1MW thermal input.

What are the key principles?

  • Instil regulation of MCPs between 1 and 50MW (an electrical output between 330kW and 17MW)
  • Monitoring of CO2 levels and an Emissions Limit Value (ELV) based on the size and type of combustion plants.

Emission limit values set in the MCPD will have to be applied from 20th December 2018 for new plants. Plants with thermal input above 5MW must have a permit by 1st January 2024, and plants with thermal input between 1 and 5MW by 1st January 2029.

These regulations are of course dependent on several factors such as technology, fuel type, and specific site which haven’t yet been fully ratified. This means that further changes to the proposed legislation may occur before it must pass parliamentary approval. It will provide long-term certainty for all economic operators concerned and will be designed to be affordable for SMEs.