New EPA rules require that owners of industrial boilers comply with stricter air emissions standards. For those boilers that burn coal or biomass, this could mean significant changes.
America’s industrial manufacturers and universities face a new challenge. Both will soon be required to comply with new, stricter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions requirements at their power houses.
The new regulation, known as the Industrial Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology standard, or Boiler MACT, was issued in draft form by the EPA on April 29 and is expected to be finalized later this year. The regulation will affect thousands of industrial and institutional boilers at facilities deemed to be a major source of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
What It Means
If a university or industrial facility collectively emits more than 10 tons per year of any one HAP or 25 tons per year of any combination of HAPs, its boilers will be subject to Boiler MACT requirements, according to Don Wolf, a Burns & McDonnell principal who specializes in air pollution control. “The regulation will have a major impact on coal-fired and biomass-fired boilers,” he says.
The new, stricter Boiler MACT regulation takes the place of an earlier version that had governed emissions of particulate matter (PM), hydrogen chloride (HCl) and mercury (Hg). Finalized in 2004, that version was vacated in 2007 when challenged in court by environmental groups. “The latest version has much more stringent emission limits and covers carbon monoxide and dioxin/furan, too,” explains Wolf.
“The tighter emission limits may force owners of existing coal- or biomass-fired boilers to upgrade existing pollution control equipment significantly or consider switching to natural gas to fire their boilers,” Wolf says. “The dioxin/furan limits pose other challenges. Very little testing has been done to understand the magnitude of the emission of these pollutants or how to best control them.”
Many facilities were in the process of complying with the old rule when it was vacated by the courts, explained Wolf, who with his Burns & McDonnell colleagues has provided planning and design services to more than a dozen universities and industrial facilities aiming for Boiler MACT compliance.
Most solid fuel-fired facilities that were already in compliance with the old rule will likely still require upgrades. These upgrades could include the retrofit of sorbent injection systems, baghouses and scrubbers.
Each situation is unique. The only way to know what modifications might be necessary is to conduct a Boiler MACT compliance study to establish baseline emissions information. In many cases, the compliance study may include stack testing to help the facility baseline its current emissions, especially for dioxin/furan and carbon monoxide.
“By comparing your baseline emissions against the Boiler MACT emission limits, you can begin to assess if you will be in compliance and, if necessary, develop a corrective plan of action,” Wolf explains.
The cost for modifications can vary, depending on boiler size, fuel type and the extent and condition of existing equipment. Capital costs could range from $1 million or less for a sorbent injection system to $5 million to $10 million or more for a baghouse or scrubber. In general, projects can be expected to take from 18 months to three years to complete.
Considering that compliance is expected to be required by early 2014, that leaves a relatively short window to act. For facilities that may be affected by Boiler MACT, the message is clear: The time to begin is now.
For more information, contact Don Wolf, 314-682-1532.