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VOC Solvents Directive

car paintingFrequently asked questions (FAQs)

The aim of these "FAQs" is to provide guidance in implementing the VOC Solvents Directive 1999/13/EC by suggesting how certain provisions of the Directive should be understood. The guidance does not represent an official position of the European Commission and cannot be invoked as such in the context of legal proceedings. Final judgements concerning the interpretation of the Directive can only be made by the European Court of Justice.

List of questions

(click on the link to get to the answer)

Question 1: An installation with a solvent consumption ever being below the threshold laid down in Annex IIA of the VOC Solvents Directive is, according to national law, authorised /registered in line with the provisions of the VOC Solvents Directive.

Does the installation fall under the Directive 2004/42/EC ("Paints Directive") ?

Question 2: The VOC Solvents Directive (1999/13) and the amended Paints Directive (2004/42) have provided different definitions of “Volatile Organic Compound”. The former defines a VOC by its vapour pressure (volatile if vapour pressure is 0.01 kPa or more at 293.15 K) and the latter uses the boiling point (volatile if boiling point is less than or equal to 250 ºC at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa).

What is the situation if a compound decomposes below 250 ºC, e.g. certain plasticizers are broken down when heat is applied to them ?

Question 3: According to Article 4(3) of Directive 1999/13/EC, installations using a reduction scheme must notify this to the competent authorities by 31 October 2005. If an installation has missed this deadline, is it still possible to apply a reduction scheme ?

Question 4: Can certain activities covered by Directive 1999/13/EC, e.g. dry cleaning, be regulated through general binding rules and not require separate permits to be issued for each operator ?

Question 5: When applying the reduction scheme, should the solvent content of each product used in the installation be below the average solvent content, calculated according to the provisions of Annex IIB ?

Question 6: Should the solvent consumption of several installations, which each carry out different activities pursuant to Annex IIA be added to determine whether or not they are under the scope of the VOC Directive ?

Question 7: Do the reference emissions and the target emissions under the Reduction Scheme have to be recalculated each year ?

Question 8: Could authorities ask for more stringent requirements in the authorisation/registration than are laid down in Directive 1999/13/EC ?

Question 9: What is the VOC content of a preparation such as a coating ?

Question 10: How do you convert VOC emissions expressed in VOC into carbon emissions (mg C/Nm³) ?

Question 11: How do you convert vapour pressures units between Pa, mbar, mm Hg and atm ?

Question 12: Does the VOC Solvents Directive take into account the POCP of solvents ?

Question 13: What does substantial change mean ?

Question 14: Manufacturers usually group their coatings into product series/product groups (medium-solids 1-coat plain top coat, high-solids 1-coat plain top coat, medium-solids primer for metallic coats, etc.), with slight variations in composition within these product series/groups depending on what colour is chosen (red, yellow, blue, black).

Does solvent input have to be determined on the basis of an average solvent content or the least favourable (highest) solvent content, or must each shade within a series be considered separately ?

Answers to the questions

Question 1: An installation with a solvent consumption ever being below the threshold laid down in Annex IIA of the VOC Solvents Directive is, according to national law, authorised /registered in line with the provisions of the VOC Solvents Directive.

Does the installation fall under the Directive 2004/42/EC ("Paints Directive") ?

Answer 1: Article 3(2) of the Paints Directive requires Member States to exempt from compliance with the requirements of Article 3(1) products sold for exclusive use in an activity covered by the Directive 1999/13/EC and carried out in a registered or authorised installation according to Articles 3 and 4 of that Directive.

This exemption addresses those installations which fall under the VOC Solvents Directive having a solvent consumption exceeding the relevant threshold of Annex IIA of this Directive.

This exemption also applies in the case of installations with a solvent consumption below the relevant threshold of Annex IIA, but authorised/registered according to national law in line with the provisions of Article 3 and 4 of the VOC Solvents Directive. Those installations do not fall under the provisions of the Paints Directive.

This does not prevent the MS from cancelling an authorisation/registration issued according to the VOC Solvents Directive if certain circumstances justify this.

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Question 2: The VOC Solvents Directive (1999/13) and the amended Paints Directive (2004/42) have provided different definitions of “Volatile Organic Compound”. The former defines a VOC by its vapour pressure (volatile if vapour pressure is 0.01 kPa or more at 293.15 K) and the latter uses the boiling point (volatile if boiling point is less than or equal to 250 ºC at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa).

What is the situation if a compound decomposes below 250 ºC, e.g. certain plasticizers are broken down when heat is applied to them ?

Answer 2: In cases where compounds decompose below 250 ºC, the procedure most in line with Directive 2004/42/EC would be to measure the boiling point at various pressures lower than the standard pressure and extrapolate to the standard pressure.

Note: As an alternative, indicative approach, it might be helpful to check if the substance is a VOC according to either Directive 1999/13/EC or to Directive 2001/81/EC on National emission ceilings. In the latter the following definition is given: "volatile organic compounds" and "VOC" mean all organic compounds arising from human activities, other than methane, which are capable of producing photochemical oxidants by reactions with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight".

The “boiling point approach” was adopted for Directive 2004/42/CE because during negotiations Member States were generally more in favour of this definition of VOCs than the "vapour pressure approach" definition in Directive 1999/13/EC. The main reason is that the boiling point of a substance is easier to identify (and presumably more data are available) than the vapour pressure at room temperature of the same substance. Nevertheless, the results of the two approaches for any one substance are, to the knowledge of the EU Commission, in most cases identical.

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Question 3: According to Article 4(3) of Directive 1999/13/EC, installations using a reduction scheme must notify this to the competent authorities by 31 October 2005. If an installation has missed this deadline, is it still possible to apply a reduction scheme ?

Answer 3: It is the European Commission’s view that such an installation has to be regarded as being in breach of the obligations of the Directive, assuming that the provisions dealing with the reduction scheme and its deadlines have been clearly transposed into national legislation. The consequences of such a breach have to be determined by the competent authorities of the Member State concerned, and sanctions should be applied according to Article 14 of the Directive.

Unless this is explicitly stipulated by domestic law, the European Commission does not think that the operator should be precluded from submitting a reduction scheme at a later date (after compliance with/implementation of the sanctions) in accordance with Article 4(3) and Annex IIB. This is particularly the case when applying the reduction scheme allows for a more cost-effective way of meeting the requirements of the Directive.

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Question 4: Can certain activities covered by Directive 1999/13/EC, e.g. dry cleaning, be regulated through general binding rules and not require separate permits to be issued for each operator ?

Answer 4: Article 5 of Directive 1999/13/EC states that "Member States shall take the appropriate measures either by specification in the conditions of the authorisation or by general binding rules to ensure that paragraphs 2 to 12 are complied with."

The use of general binding rules is restricted in Article 5 to the implementation of Article 5(2)-(12) and does not remove the need for having an authorisation or registration, as laid down in Articles 3 and 4 of Directive 1999/13/EC.

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Question 5: When applying the reduction scheme, should the solvent content of each product used in the installation be below the average solvent content, calculated according to the provisions of Annex IIB ?

Answer 5: No.
Annex IIB explicitly refers to "decreases in the average solvent content of the total input" as one of the possible measures to reach the target emissions.

Note: Member State authorities sometimes offer operators a non-obligatory "simplified procedure" in cases where they can prove that the solvent content of each product used is below the average solvent content needed to comply with the maximum allowed total emission, calculated according to Annex IIB. This simplified procedure is less time-consuming with regard to proof of compliance to the authorities, but is more restrictive regarding the use of paints with high solvent content.

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Question 6: Should the solvent consumption of several installations, which each carry out different activities pursuant to Annex IIA be added to determine whether or not they are under the scope of the VOC Directive ?

Answer 6: No.
For example, where metal parts are cleaned and coated in one plant, the solvent consumption thresholds for both activities (surface cleaning and other metal and plastic coating) has to be considered separately according to the VOC Directive. If the solvent consumption of an activity does not exceed the threshold, then this activity is not included. It is thus possible that the cleaning of metal parts falls within the scope of the Directive whilst the coating of these parts does not. If both activities exceed the threshold, “compensation” of the total emissions between different activities is allowed for, in certain cases, in accordance with Article 5.

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Question 7: Do the reference emissions and the target emissions under the Reduction Scheme have to be recalculated each year ?

Answer 7: Yes.
The reference emissions and the target emissions have to be recalculated each year because they will vary according to the total mass of solids consumed each year. In certain cases compliance with the reduction scheme according to Article 9(1) might be demonstrated without recalculation every year.

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Question 8: Could authorities ask for more stringent requirements in the authorisation/registration than are laid down in Directive 1999/13/EC ?

Answer 8: Yes.
There could be a variety of reasons for this, for example, for installations that also fall under the scope of Directive 96/61/EC ("IPPC Directive") the implementation of BAT ("best available techniques") might entail more stringent requirements. Other examples might be national requirements in order to comply with Directive 2001/81/EC ("NEC Directive") or with air quality limit values, notably for ozone. Under national legislation, more stringent provisions may already have been established before Directive 1999/13/EC entered into force.

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Question 9: What is the VOC content of a preparation such as a coating ?

Answer 9: The VOC Solvents Directive defines a VOC as any organic compound having, at 293.15 K (20oC), a vapour pressure of 0.01 kPa or more, or having a corresponding volatility under the particular conditions of use.
In practice, many formulations falling under the scope of the VOC Solvents Directive such as paint, inks and adhesives will consist of a mixture of solvents, polymers and often other non-dissolved solids (e.g. pigments in coatings). The main problem for users is in understanding the VOC content of the preparation and hence being able to calculate their emissions and solvent balance.
It is virtually impossible for the formulator to predict or calculate the vapour pressure of the whole system they use, because of the complexity of physicochemical interactions between the components of the system, even when the vapour pressures of the pure raw materials are supplied by the manufacturers. Measurements of vapour pressures also present significant issues, in particular in regions below 0.1 kPa.
The best approach is to treat each solvent in the preparation individually. The total VOC content of the system is related to mass percentages of VOC components in the formulation. Therefore, only individual compounds with a vapour pressure ³ 0.01 kPa need to be considered.
In relation to the VOC Solvents Directive, the formulator would need to identify which solvents have a vapour pressure over the 0.01 kPa limit (supplied by the solvent manufacturer), taking into account the temperature of use and documenting the VOC content of his formulation on this basis. Components with a vapour pressure lower than 0.01 kPa would be excluded.
An example of the calculation of the VOC content of a formulation:

Concentration, %m/m

Vapour pressure at 20°C, kPa

MEK

10

9.5

Xylene

10

1.5

De-aromatised Mineral Spirit 150/200

10

0.3

Butyl glycol

10

0.08

Butyl diglycol

10

0.007

Resin

50

< 0.001

For the calculation of the VOC content the concentrations of the components having a vapour pressure = 10 Pa should be considered (i.e. MEK, xylene, Mineral Spirit and butyl glycol all together 40%m/m). If the formulation was used at a temperature of 40°C then the value would be 50%m/m, because butyl diglycol would have a vapour pressure = 0.01 kPa at this temperature and should thus be included. Using the density of the preparation, the VOC content, expressed in g/l, can be calculated.
In Europe the VOC content of a finished product, such as a paint, is usually expressed in terms of grams of VOC per litre. In case the VOC content is expressed as mass percentage of the paint (WVOC), conversion to grams per litre is done by using the following formula:

VOC = WVOC x DC / 100%

where:
VOC = VOC content of paint (in g/L)
WVOC = mass percentage of VOC components in paint (in % m/m)
DC = density of paint at 20°C (in g/L)

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Question 10: How do you convert VOC emissions expressed in VOC into carbon emissions (mg C/Nm³) ?

Answer 10: In the VOC Solvents Directive, emission limits for waste gases are normally quoted in mg C (carbon)/Nm3, which is their standard measurement unit. Therefore users of solvents that are VOCs should convert volumes or masses of VOC into carbon emissions (in mg C/Nm3) in order to compare their emissions with the waste gas emission limits of the Directive. The carbon content of a solvent can be supplied by the manufacturer. For most commercial solvents an indication of the carbon content can be found on the ESIG web site:
http:// www.esig.org ‘The Carbon content of Commonly Used Solvents’.
The carbon emission from VOC oxygenated solvents and single molecule hydrocarbon solvents can be calculated with the formula:
(number of C atoms in the molecular structure x 12/ molecular weight) x 100%.

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Question 11: How do you convert vapour pressures units between Pa, mbar, mm Hg and atm ?

Answer 11:
1 Pa corresponds to 0.01 mbar or 7.500617 x 10-3 mm Hg or 9.869233 x 10-6 atm.
1 mbar corresponds to 100 Pa or 0.7500617 mm Hg or 9.869233 x 10-4 atm.
1 mm Hg corresponds to 133.3224 Pa or 1.333224 mbar or 1.315789 x 10-3 atm.
1 atm corresponds to 101325 Pa or 1013.25 mbar or 760 mm Hg.

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Question 12: Does the VOC Solvents Directive take into account the POCP of solvents ?

Answer 12: POCP is the Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential. It is one of the relative reactivity scales used to measure the potential of a VOC to participate in atmospheric reactions leading to episodes of photochemical ozone. The European Commission along with Member State experts and industry have examined the reactivity concept (as embodied by POCP) as an option for ozone control. It was concluded that although the concept has merits, the state of the science was insufficiently developed to make legislative use of it. For these reasons, the Solvent Emissions Directive uses an overall mass reduction of VOCs as a means of achieving photochemical ozone concentration reductions.

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Question 13: What does substantial change mean ?

Answer 13: The directive differentiates between three categories of substantial change and these are listed within the text of the directive in Article 2. The key points to note are that a simple increase in emissions, as caused by a fluctuation (oscillation) in productivity, is not a substantial change. The increase should be caused by a change in the ‘nominal’ capacity, as defined in the Directive. This is intended to mean an increase in the production capacity.

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Question 14: Manufacturers usually group their coatings into product series/product groups (medium-solids 1-coat plain top coat, high-solids 1-coat plain top coat, medium-solids primer for metallic coats, etc.), with slight variations in composition within these product series/groups depending on what colour is chosen (red, yellow, blue, black).

Does solvent input have to be determined on the basis of an average solvent content or the least favourable (highest) solvent content, or must each shade within a series be considered separately ?

Answer 14: All solvent-containing inputs must be considered separately and listed separately by quantity and solvent content, and only then may they be added up. Averaging is not permitted.
For the sake of simplification, the operator may use the least favourable solvent content to determine the solvent input, but only if it can be proven that this leads to overestimating the fugitive or, where applicable, total emissions.

Note:
The fugitive emission (limit) value is expressed in the Directive as a percentage of the solvent input I, which can be calculated according to the following equation: I = I1 + I2 (see Annex III(3) for definitions of I1 and I2).

Determining the solvent input is always needed for calculating the fugitive emissions.

Three cases need to be distinguished when assessing the potential impact on the emission figures of under- or overestimating the input (formulae taken from Annex III(4)(ii)(a)).

1. When using the emission limit values and applying a 'direct' method to determine the fugitive emissions: in this case F=O2+O3+O4+O9.
This means that an overestimation of the input I will cause an underestimation of the calculated fugitive emissions (as a percentage of the input: F / I x 100) Thus, this may erroneously lead to the conclusion that the fugitive emission limit values are complied with.

2. When using the emission limit values and applying an 'indirect' method to determine the fugitive emissions: in this case F=I1-O1-O5-O6-O7-O8.
This means that there is no clear linear relation between the calculated fugitive emissions (as a percentage of the input F / I x 100) and the input, as I1 adds to both the numerator and denominator in the calculation of the fugitive emissions in %. .Thus, in this case the impact of overestimating the input on the conclusions regarding compliance with the fugitive emission limit values is uncertain.

3. When using the Reduction Scheme, the solvent input doesn't influence the target emissions. When doing the compliance check for the reduction scheme and using a 'direct' method to determine the fugitive emissions (F= O2+O3+O4+O9), the input does not influence the fugitive emissions. When using an 'indirect' method to determine the fugitive emissions (F=I1-O1-O5-O6-O7-O8), overestimating the input will mean overestimating the calculated fugitive emissions. Thus it may only lead to too stringent conclusions regarding compliance with the target emissions.

Conclusion:
If a simplified method is applied to determine the input, only for case 3 (reduction scheme) it will be sufficient for the operator to prove that the input has not been underestimated.
Such proof will not be sufficient in cases 1 and 2. There, the operator will need to prove that the uncertainty associated with the simplification can not lead to an unjustified conclusion about the compliance with the fugitive (or total) emission limit values due to an underestimation of these emissions.

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