Medium Combustion Plant

What are the Medium Combustion Plant (MCP) Regulations and what is their purpose?

The Medium Combustion Plant Regulations were signed into law in December 2017. Their purpose is to limit emissions to atmosphere from boilers and other stationary combustion plants in the 1-50 MWTH (thermal input) range. It covers all fuel types. The Regulations transpose the Medium Combustion Plant (MCP) Directive ((EU) 2015/2193) which was adopted in 2015.

The regulations limit the level of emissions allowable from new combustion plants from 20th December 2018, while operators of existing MCPs will have longer to comply with stricter emission standards. This will assist in limiting the impact on human health, vegetation and biodiversity which can be caused by air pollution.

What is a ‘Medium Combustion Plant’?

A “combustion plant” is defined as “…any technical apparatus in which fuels are oxidised in order to use the heat thus generated” so it will cover boilers, turbines, and engines.  The regulations apply to both new and existing equipment, between 1 and 50MWth.  Regulation 4(3) sets out exemptions for some specific combustion plants.

They are referred to as ‘medium’ because large combustion plants ‘LCP’ (i.e. those >50 MWTH) are covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EC), while small combustion plants (up to 500 kWTH) are covered by the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC).

What differentiates a ‘new’ from an ‘existing’ Medium Combustion Plant and why is this important?

An “existing medium combustion plant” means a medium combustion plant put into operation before 20 December 2018. A ‘new’ medium combustion plant” is any MCP that is not existing, i.e. an MCP first put into operation on or after 20th December 2018.

A new MCP must meet the relevant requirements of the Regulations from the date it is put into operation. For example, an MCP first put into operation on 20th December 2018 must be registered by this date (unless it is on an installation controlled by an IED or IPC licence), and is required to meet the relevant emission limit values from this date.

An existing MCP is not required to be registered until 2024 (5 – 50MWth) or 2029 (1 – 5 MWth), and the relevant emission limit values will not apply until 2025 and 2030 respectively.

What do the Regulations require of MCP operators?

The main requirements are as follows:

  • Each MCP must be registered with the EPA by the specified date, unless it is on an installation controlled by an IED/IPC licence from the EPA.
  • Operators must provide information to the competent authority for the purposes of registration.
  • The MCP must comply with emission limit values (ELVs) for SO2, NOx and dust, by the dates referred to above.
  • Emissions (SO2, NOx, dust and carbon monoxide (CO)) must be monitored at least every 3 years for plants up to 20 MWth, or at least annually for plants greater than 20 MWth.

In addition the regulations require registered operators to keep various records relating to the operation of the plant and emissions monitoring, and specifies other obligations such as notifying the Agency of non-compliances. See Regulation 14 for full details.

I operate an MCP on an IED licensed installation. What do I need to do?

For existing MCP, no specific action is required of you. Where you propose to operate a new MCP, this will need to be authorised by the Agency prior to operation, either by means of a Condition 1 approval, Technical Amendment or licence review.

Tell me more about the Emission Limit Values (ELVs)

ELVs are set in the regulations based on combustion plant type, size, fuel type, and age ( i.e. new or existing). These can be seen in a series of tables in Schedule 2 of the Regulations. Note also the detailed footnotes that clarify and, in some cases, modify the ELVs for specific applications.

These ELVs are default values that may be reduced by the Agency in particular instances where lower ELVs are required for environmental protection purposes. This might occur where, for example, air quality problems in an area are considered by the Agency to be caused or partly caused by MCP emissions. [See Regulations 11(5) and 11(6)].

What about emergency generators?

The regulations make special provision for MCP such as emergency generators, which operate intermittently or rarely. Where these MCP operate less than 500 hours per year (as a rolling average over 5 years), they are exempt from some of the specified ELVs. Where necessary for environmental protection, the regulations allow the Agency to reduce this number of hours in specific circumstances for specific plant (similar to the provisions for reducing ELVs). [See Regulations 13(1), 13(3) and 20(4)(c)].

Are there any other exemptions or derogations?

There is a range of exemptions, derogations, and variations from the default limit values, which are set out in Regulations 11, 12 and 13, and in the footnotes in Schedule 2.

What do MCP operators need to do now?

Anyone operating or planning to operate an MCP should ensure that they understand the obligations of the Regulations, in particular, the applicable ELVs. Pay attention to the associated footnotes, and the various exemptions and derogations that may be applicable.

Operators planning to buy or install new MCP should ensure that new plants are specified to meet the ‘new plant’ ELVs set out in Schedule 2 Part 2 of the Regulations.

Operators of existing MCPs should monitor SO2, NOx, dust and CO emissions to determine whether specific measures will be required to achieve compliance. These operators have until January 2025 (5- 50MWth) or January 2030 (1 – 5 MWth) to achieve compliance.

What are the EPA requirements for monitoring emissions from MCP?

The European Union (Medium Combustion Plants) Regulations 2017 requires that periodic monitoring of emissions to atmosphere from medium combustion plants is carried out. Air emissions sampling and analysis is a particularly difficult aspect of environmental monitoring, and specialist equipment is required to be used. Both the sampling and analysis stages of air emissions monitoring require a high level of competency and quality control. Most MCP facilities will not carry out their own air emissions monitoring, but will instead employ a contractor to carry out the monitoring and provide a report, which can be submitted to the EPA. The EPA generally supports the approach of using external specialist service providers, and would not recommend that facilities attempt to carry out their own air emissions monitoring.

In order to ensure the generation of consistent high quality and robust monitoring data from MCP facilities, it is a mandatory requirement that all air emissions monitoring carried out is performed by an ISO 17025 accredited air monitoring contractor. Accredited air emission monitoring contractors operating in Ireland either receive their accreditation from the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), or else they operate under the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

The details of the INAB ISO17025 accredited air emissions monitoring contractors are as follows:

The Irish-based contractors who hold UKAS ISO17025 accreditation for air emissions monitoring are as follows:

You must ensure that the air monitoring contractor you intend to use for EPA compliance monitoring holds ISO17025 accreditation. The EPA will not accept monitoring results from a monitoring contractor, who does not hold accreditation to the ISO17025 standard.

Where do I go with additional queries?

Please send any additional queries to licensing@epa.ie using the subject heading ‘Medium Combustion Plant’.