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Does the Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD) affect you?

  • United Kingdom
  • Environment
  • Health and safety

13-07-2018

If you operate a combustion plant or combination of combustion plants, including generators, with a rated thermal input of 1 MW and less than 50 MW in the EEA you should consider its impact

Medium Combustion Plants (MCP) are used for a wide variety of applications (electricity generation, domestic/residential heating and cooling, providing heat/steam for industrial processes, etc.). Around 30,000 plants in England and Wales across a range of sectors including hotels, hospitals, school, prisons, agriculture and industrial facilities are expected to be affected.

The MCPD is part of the European Union’s 2013 Clean Air Policy Package. MCPs are being targeted as there was a perceived gap in EU legislation (larger plants are subject to the Industrial Emissions Directive and smaller appliances (such as solid fuel boilers) being subject to the Ecodesign Directive). The MCPD aims to plug that gap.  

On 30 January 2018, the MCPD was implemented in England and Wales through an amendment to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, this legislation also includes specific provisions to limit pollution from generators. This means that many operators that have not previously required an environmental permit will have to get to grips with this regime.

My combustion plant(s) has an input of below 1 MW – does this mean I’m not affected?

No, in certain circumstances input from multiple combustion plants has to be aggregated. This is the case where plants share a common stack (or could share having taken into account technical and economic factors). It is also the case for generators below 1 MW where multiple generators are operated at the same site, by the same operator for the same purposes and/or if the generator is used to meet a capacity agreement or to provide balancing services.

How do I comply?

MCPs must have an environmental permit and comply with emission limit values (ELVs) for S02, NOx, and dust. Transitional deadlines for compliance apply to new and existing plants. 

  1. New MCPs (plants put into operation on/after 20 December 2018) require a permit and must comply with the ELVs set in that permit from when they are put into operation;
  2. Existing MCPs (plants already in operation by 20 December 2018 or for which an environmental permit was granted before 19 December 2017 provided the MCP was in operation by 20 December 2018);
  3. if over 5 MW require a permit by 1 January 2024 and must comply with the ELVs set by 1 January 2025; and
  4. if between 1 MW and 5 MW require a permit by 1 January 2029 and must comply with ELVs from 1 January 2030.

The staggered compliance deadlines reflect the fact that it is easier to factor in abatement equipment in the development of a new plant than it is to install such equipment retrospectively once a plant is operational.

The ELVs which have to be complied with vary according to the MCP’s type, size, age, fuel type and annual operating hours.

Operators must monitor emissions from their plants periodically to demonstrate compliance, keep records of any non-compliance and take appropriate action to achieve compliance.  On request, operators must provide these records to the Environment Agency (EA)/Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Where MCPs are used on sites that form part of existing regulated facilities or MCPs of over 20 MW which are already subject to the environmental permitting regime, the permits for these sites/operations will need to be updated to include MCPD requirements. For these MCPs, compliance checks by the EA/NRW are expected to be incorporated into the existing compliance check. For MCPs new to the permitting regime, it is envisaged that inspections will be conducted at the regulator’s discretion.  

What about generators?

England and Wales have also introduced specific obligations for generators. These obligations apply in a phased approach and depend on when the generator came into operation, whether it is subject to a capacity agreement (and which capacity auction this relates to) and its thermal input.  The general obligation is that generators must comply with an ELV of NOX of 190mg/Nm3 and that there is no persistent emission of dark smoke (as defined in the Clean Air Act).

Are there any exemptions?

Yes, certain MCPs are entirely exempt including those used on offshore platforms, for non-road mobile machinery and reactors in the chemical industry. There are also limited exemptions and/or delayed timescales for compliance in certain cases including for MCPs operating for a limited number of hours and those in small isolated systems. Equally there are temporary derogations such as where low-sulphur fuel is unavailable.

Next steps 

Businesses should consider whether they are impacted by the new requirements. The government is expected to consult on guidance to accompany the new regime early this year. This guidance should be reviewed. Business should review existing, and planned MCPs/generators now and develop a strategy to minimise the technical and financial burden of complying with obtaining an environmental permit and complying with the ELVs.

Operations within other EEA member states should also be considered. The MCPD required implementation by each of the Member States by 19 December 2017, and so similar obligations are likely to apply across the EEA.

In our view, Brexit is unlikely to impact these compliance requirements as the MCPD has already been implemented into English and Welsh law.

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