Europe’s biggest polluters

Neurath lignite plant,  one of Europe’s biggest point sources of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Photo: Hadamsky/ BY sa

Polish lignite plant Belchatow and British coal plant Drax dominate Europe’s most polluting point sources in 2014.

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) was recently updated with figures for emissions from industrial installations in 2014.

According to the new data, the Polish state-owned Belchatow lignite plant – the largest thermal power station in Europe, with an electricity output of 5400 megawatts (MW) – remained Europe’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter, emitting nearly 37 million tonnes of CO2. It was followed by two German lignite plants, Neurath (32.4 Mt) and Niederaussem (27.2 Mt). Of the twelve worst CO2-polluters, seven are German lignite plants.

Drax in the United Kingdom, which occupies sixth place, is mainly powered by hard coal. Over the last few years, Drax has also been burning more and more biomass, imported primarily from the United States, and in 2014 the burning of wood pellets contributed about one third of the electricity generated by Drax.

All in all, the dozen dirtiest point sources emitted a staggering 255 million tonnes of CO2, more than five times the total national emissions from Sweden.

At the top of the list of the worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) polluters, we find once again Belchatow, closely followed by Drax. Each of these plants emitted some 36,000 tonnes of NOx in 2014. It is notable that five of the twelve worst NOx-polluters are located in the UK. However, Longannet will not appear in future lists, since it was shut down in March this year.

The list of the worst sulphur polluters is dominated by lignite plants in eastern Europe, with four plants in Serbia, and two each in Poland and Bulgaria. Belchatow and Drax can also be found in this list. With emissions of more than 70,000 tonnes of SO2, Belchatow is by far the biggest sulphur polluter in the EU, followed by Maritsa 2 in Bulgaria (50,000 tonnes).

Implementation of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, which includes emission standards for existing large combustion plants, in the new EU member states in eastern Europe is reflected in the list of sulphur polluters, although some derogations from the emission standards were still in place in 2014. The four Serbian lignite plants are not covered by this directive as the country is not a member of the EU.

The E-PRTR is a service managed by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA). The online register contains information on emissions of pollutants released into the air, water, land and wastewater by industrial facilities throughout Europe (32 countries: EU28, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia) and includes annual data for 91 substances released from 33,000 facilities. It also provides maps of some non-industrial sources of emissions.

Christer Ågren

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register
Note: For lists from 2009–2012 see AN2/2011, AN2/2012, AN2/2013, AN2/2014.



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