Industrial emissions, incl. large combustion plants

       Illustration: Lars-Erik Håkansson

The Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EC) was adopted in November 2010 and includes binding minimum requirements (emission limit values) for new and existing large combustion plants.

As part of its Clean Air Policy Package of December 2013, the Commission proposed a new directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion plants (MCP), such as local heating plants for smaller districts and small industrial installations, with a thermal input between 1 and 50 megawatts (MW). The MCP directive (2015/2193) was adopted in November 2015, and it covers more than 140 000 combustion plants. Binding emission limit values (ELV) are set for SO2, NOx and dust, and are differentiated according to plant capacity, age and type of installation, withe the strictest standards for new plants. In 2022, European Commission presented their proposal to amend the IED to include more sectors.

BREF for large combustion plants: The decision-making process under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive defines best available techniques (BAT) in BREF documents which are to be used by member states to set binding emission limit values for toxic emissions, such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury and particulate matter (PM2.5). New, updated BREF documents should be adopted and published no later than eight years after the previous version, and the first LCP BREF document was published in 2006. In April 2017 - three years behind schedule - member states finally agreed on a new LCP BREF document that will require EU countries to apply new tighter emission limits for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) to all existing large combustion plants (LCP) in the EU, including all large coal-fired power plants. Emission limits for mercury have also been introduced for the first time. The new standards will have to be complied with by 2021.

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) is a Europe-wide register that provides easily accessible environmental data from industrial facilities in the EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland. The E-PRTR contains information on emissions of pollutants released to air, water and land by some 35,000 industrial facilities. It is updated at regular intervals, and the first data set is from 2007.

>> Further reading

Set strict emission limits for power plants. Article in Acid News 1/2019.

Dirty dozen – biggest polluters. Article in Acid News 3/2017.

Tighter emission limits for EU power plants. Article in Acid News 2/2017.

End derogations for polluting coal plants. Article in Acid News 4/2016.

Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud – How cutting coal saves lives (October 2016). Report by EEB, CAN-Europe, HEAL, Sandbag, and WWF.

Europe´s biggest polluters. Article in Acid News 3/2016.

Coal kills across boarders. Article in Acid News 3/2016.

New rules on emissions from medium combustion plants adopted. Article in Acid News 1/2016.

Deal on pollution from medium combustion plants. Article in Acid News 3/2015.

Weak EU coal pollution standards carry high costs. Article in Acid News 3/2015.

New draft EU air pollution limits weaker than in China. Article in Acid News 2/2015.

Serious flaws in new MCP directive. Article in Acid News 2/2015.

EU industrial pollution cost up to €189 billion per year. Article in Acid News 1/2015.

Flexibilities threaten emission cuts from MCPs. Article in Acid News 1/2015.

Emission controls for medium combustion plants. Article in Acid News 1/2014.

A new EU clean air strategy up to 2030. Article in Acid News 1/2014.

High potential to further cut pollution from power plants. Article in Acid News 3/2013.

Running out of time - the LCPD bites at last. Article in Acid News 1/2013.

EU industrial emissions cost up to €169 billion. Article in Acid News 1/2012.

Agreement on Industrial Emissions Directive. Article in Acid News 3/2010.

A push for cleaner industry. Article in Acid News 2/2009.

European Commission DG Environment. Information on EU legislation on industrial emissions.

The Costs and Health Benefits of Reducing Emissions from Power Stations in Europe. Report by AirClim (April 2008)

E-PRTR - the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. A register of industrial emissions, including data on individual facilities in EU28 countries plus 5 other countries.


The large combustion plants (LCP) directive

The Large Combustion Plant (LCP) directive was first adopted in 1988 (88/609/EEC) and then updated and revised in 2001 (2001/80/EC). It specifies emission limits for plant which use combustible fuels to generate electricity and/or heat, and have a maximum thermal input greater than 50 megawatts (MW).

One measure of the environmental performance of a plant is the concentration of pollutants in the exhaust gases resulting from combustion. Part of the LCP directive sets Emission Limit Values (ELVs) for SO2, NOx and dust (particulate matter) for plants expressed as maximum concentrations of pollutants in the exhaust gases in milligrams per cubic metre (mg/Nm3). Arguably, a better measure is the amount of pollution per unit useful output of electricity and/or heat from the plant.

The 2001 LCP directive sets ELVs for both new and existing plants. New plants are defined as those that are either licenced before 27 November 2002 or put into operation after 27 November 2003. The ELVs that apply to these new plants are presented in Table 1, below.

In the 2001 LCP directive, existing plants are separated into two categories: those built before 1988 (i.e. the ones that were called "existing" in the 88/609/EEC directive), and those built from 1988 up to 2003 (i.e. the ones that were called "new" in the 88/609/EEC directive).

For the latter the ELVs in directive 88/609/EEC have applied since 1988. The 2001 LCP directive did not only mean a tightening-up of the requirements for post-1988 plants, but also the introduction of ELVs for pre-1988 ones.

According to the directive, the Commission was to have submitted a review report to the European Parliament by the end of 2004, which could be followed up with a proposal for revision, but no such proposal was presented in 2004. However, in December 2007, the Commission proposed draft legislation to further reduce emissions from industrial installations regulated under the 1996 integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive (96/61/EC), including to merge the IPPC directive and six sectoral directives, including the LCP directive, into a single new industrial emissions directive.

The new Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EC) was adopted in November 2010 and includes binding minimum requirements (emission limit values) for new and existing large combustion plants.

Last updated 2022-08-19