Keeping it local – know your (local Air Quality) limits

Rachel Hamblin, Consultant at URS

EBRI has partnered with URS Infrastructure & Environment Ltd to provide expert planning and permitting events, support and guidance for companies interested in bioenergy development.

Ahead of EBRI’s second ‘planning and permitting for bioenergy developments’ workshop on 26.9.2014, URS Consultant Rachel Hamblin – specialising in waste, minerals and resources – discusses the importance of controlling emissions from biomass installations.

In September 2013 Birmingham City Council published its Biomass Emissions Policy. The Council considers the existing legislative framework to be inadequate for controlling airborne emissions from biomass installations in the city. The policy document, amongst other things, details emissions level criteria for the installation of biomass units which require planning consent. The document states that:

‘as a guide the particulate emissions limits should be as close to or equivalent to those from a gas boiler (1mg/MJ) and no greater than emissions from light fuels oil boilers at 5mg/m3.’

The policy document also states that modern, high efficiency biomass boilers operating at full output might produce total particulate emissions in the range of 10-70mg/MJ but that the use of high efficiency filters, such as ceramic filters can ensure that particulate emissions are kept low i.e. <2 mg/MJ.

Other cities have adopted equivalent policies, for example the City of London Air Quality Strategy highlights the potential conflicts with air quality when using biomass as a low carbon fuel. The Strategy states that

‘In addition to emissions from the fuel itself, fuel deliveries would add to local pollution and traffic congestion. Current abatement equipment has the potential to reduce the amount of particulates from a biomass boiler to a certain extent, but not oxides of nitrogen. Consequently, whilst levels of pollution in the City fail to meet legal targets, it is not considered a suitable fuel, unless it can be demonstrated that emissions will be no greater than an equivalent gas boiler.’

The lessons for developers of new biomass plants are clear – whilst there is strong overarching support for low carbon, sustainable energy projects, it is important to be aware of local policies. Consultation with the Council’s regulatory team at an early stage of a project is vital in order to ascertain whether your proposed project can comply with local criteria – which are likely to vary from one Authority to another.

If you have a bioenergy development scheme in mind but are unsure of the planning process, or would like support to go through your proposal, EBRI is able to offer companies and organisations in the West Midlands free planning and permitting support through workshops and 1:1 support. A ‘planning and permitting for bioenergy developments’ workshop is taking place on 26th September 2014. Place are limited so book your place early!