New legal norms envisage for existing installations four years to adapt, while new facilities must comply immediately.
The new European Commission Decisions refer to the management and treatment of waste gas in the chemical sector and a series of activities in the textile industry. They stem from a coordinated effort by stakeholders, including industry, to agree on Best Available Techniques (BATs). They were published on 12 and 20 December 2022 respectively.
It is another step by the European Commission towards the Zero Pollution ambition to reduce air, water and soil pollution to levels harmless to health and the environment. The Zero Pollution goal is one of the Green Deal’s headline actions on pollution, among a series of initiatives aiming to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent. The new norms, together with the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, aim to increase the level of protection of human health and the environment while boosting the competitiveness of industry.
Waste gas in the chemical industry
The chemical activities covered under the Common Waste Gas Management and Treatment Systems in the Chemical Sector (WGC) BAT Conclusions mainly include the production of organic chemicals, polymers and pharmaceuticals, which are large emitters of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with about 40 000 tonnes emitted to air each year.
The new norms for WGC target emission standards for 34 key air pollutants emitted from the chemical industry sector and include stricter binding levels for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A particular attention is paid to carcinogenic or toxic substances. In addition, they introduce a new approach based on a management system for preventing, reducing and quantifying diffuse emissions (those emissions that are not channelled or ducted, such as leaks from equipment).
This is a major step forward because diffuse emissions may represent a significant share of the total air emissions from chemical installations. The new environmental criteria also establish specific emission caps for VOCs and vinyl chloride monomers (VCMs). The two are pollutants emitted from the production of polymers (such as PVC or polyethylene). The new criteria reinforces monitoring and control measures to track the evolution of the expected emission reductions.