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Large combustion plants

A combustion plant is a technical apparatus in which fuel is oxidised to use the heat generated. Large Combustion Plants (LCPs) have a total rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50 MW, irrespective of the type of fuel used. There has been considerable progress in reducing their pollutant emissions in the EU as shown in the graph below and others at the EEA indicators page. Nevertheless, in 2015, LCPs accounted respectively for 44 % and 14 % of EU-28 total emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) to air.

Since they account for such a significant share of total pollutant emissions to air, the IED contains specific provisions for them. A recent study assessed the contribution of EU legislation and other factors to the reductions in LCP pollutant emissions between 2004 and 2015. This concluded that of the observed reductions in pollutant emissions, 71% of SO2, 38% of NOX and 75% of dust were due to changes in the emission factors, which were largely due to EU legislation.

Chapter III and Annex V of the IED set the minimum requirements for certain pollutant emissions from LCPs. These provisions replaced the LCP Directive (2001/80/EC).

The minimum requirements apply without prejudice to the provisions of Chapter II of the IED. In line with these requirements, permits for LCPs need to be updated in line with the LCP BAT conclusions by August 2021. These BAT conclusions establish performance levels associated with BAT and include monitoring requirements.

Minimum requirements

Industrial Emissions

1. Aggregation rules

In cases where the waste gases of two or more combustion plants are, or could be, discharged through a common stack, the aggregation rules of Article 29 of the IED define whether and when such a combination of plants shall be considered as a single combustion plant. For the purpose of calculating the total rated thermal input, combustion plants with a rated thermal input below 15 MW shall not be considered. More information is provided in the questions answered on CIRCABC.

2. Emission limit values

Until their permits are updated in line with the LCP BAT conclusions, LCP emission limit values are set out in Annex V to the IED. The applicable values are determined in relation to the total rated thermal input of the entire combustion plant.

  • Part 1 of Annex V applies for LCPs granted a permit before 7 January 2013, or for which the operator submitted a complete application before that date, provided that the plants were in operation no later than 7 January 2014.
  • Part 2 of Annex V applies for all other LCPs, as well as for LCPs granted an exemption under Article 4(4) of Directive 2001/80/EC.

Where an LCP is extended or changed, the emission limit values in Part 2 of Annex V (in relation to the total rated thermal input of the entire LCP) apply to the part of the plant affected by the change.

LCPs firing indigenous solid fuel may not be able to comply with the SO2 emission limit values set in Annex V due to the fuel characteristics. They may instead apply a minimum rates of desulphurisation set out in Part 5 of Annex V, subject to prior validation by the competent authority of a technical report with a justification.

In the case of a multi-fuel firing combustion plant, the emission limit values shall be set in accordance with Article 40 of the IED or, where applicable, Part 7 of Annex V.

3. Monitoring and compliance assessment

Monitoring of air polluting substances must be carried out in accordance with the provisions of Part 3 of IED Annex V. The IED emission limit values to air shall be regarded as being complied with if the conditions set out in Part 4 of Annex V are fulfilled.

Emission inventories

EU emission inventories for LCPs have been established since the 2004 reporting year. The Commission published a summary of these inventories covering each three year period until the 2012 reporting year.

From the 2013 reporting year, Member States are required to report annually on the energy input and sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust emissions of all LCPs. The following links provide access to this data and indicators derived from it:

The full LCP emissions inventory data from 2004 onwards

Indicators of the number of LCPs, fuel use and capacity

Indicators of emissions to air from LCPs

Information on annual emissions from large combustion plants and other industrial sources is also available through the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).

Transitional arrangements

Four mechanisms allow temporary exemptions from the emission limit values set in Annex V for some LCPs meeting the specified conditions. In no case can the resulting emission limit values be weaker than in their permits on 31 December 2015.

1. Transitional National Plan (Article 32)

  • A transitional national plan (TNP) sets a ceiling for the maximum total annual emissions for all of the plants covered by the plan in accordance with the rules specified in the IED and Commission Decision 2012/115/EU. LCPs could only be included which were granted their first permit before 27 November 2002 or the operators of which had submitted a complete application for a permit before that date, provided that the plant was put into operation no later than 27 November 2003. TNPs cover the period 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2020.
    Further information is available on TNPs and the related Commission Decisions.

2. Limited life time derogation (Article 33)

  • Limited lifetime derogations were available to the operator of an LCP who undertook, in a written declaration submitted to the competent authority before 1 January 2014, not to operate the plant more than 17 500 hours between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2023. The number of hours operated must be reported annually. LCPs were only eligible if they had not been granted an exemption under Article 4(4) of Directive 2001/80/EC.
    Further information is available on CIRCABC.

3. Small isolated systems (Article 34)

  • LCPs that were, on 6 January 2011, part of a small isolated system were eligible for this extended period to comply. The deadline for compliance with the LCP emission requirements is 31 December 2019.
    Further information is available on CIRCABC.

4. District heating plants (Article 35)

  • LCPs supplying steam or hot water to a public district heating network and meeting a number of requirements may be eligible for this time extension. If granted, the deadline for compliance with the LCP emission requirements is 31 December 2022.
    Further information is available on CIRCABC.