The Medium Combustion Plant Directive: What Next?

What next if your combustion plant is in (the) scope of the Medium Combustion Plant Directive? Luke Prazsky, Technical Director at Wardell Armstrong asks the question… and provides the answer!


Air quality is high on national and local agendas and new legislation is a timely reminder of the impending need to review the emissions of medium size combustion plants. The Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD) (Directive (EU) 2015/2193) is designed to close off a perceived gap in legislation relating to the control of emissions from combustion plants whose net thermal input is between 1-50MW. The MCPD seeks to limit emissions of specified air pollutants from these combustion plants using any fuel. Unless a plant qualifies for an exemption, combustion plants within this thermal input range, including many generators, are “in scope”.

The MCPD aims to regulate emissions of SO2, NOx and dust into the air to reduce associated risks to human health and the environment. Additional monitoring rules for carbon monoxide (CO) are also covered.

Those who have attended the informative DEFRA workshops over the last 12-18 months will be familiar with many of the aspects and implications of this legislation. However, several areas have yet to be resolved and with the Environment Agency (EA) looking the most likely in England to be the Competent Authority for MCPD, we look forward to seeing how this detail will be framed. Confirmation of the identity of the Competent Authorities in Wales and some Part B permits in England will also be watched with keen interest, as well as the details on mobile plant.

What will be closely observed is how the Environment Agency will not only identify the sites affected, but how the permitting activities will be carried out. Many of the plants caught “in scope” for this Directive may be new areas for the Environment Agency to regulate and we will work with both, clients and the EA, on these to ensure a smooth regulatory transition. This is a clear opportunity for industry and the regulator to work together. There is also the question on duel regulation at plants that the EA have had no remit over previously. Is this something that is likely to occur and if so, how will this be tackled in light of recent legal rulings?

Permitting Required

So, what does this mean for those in scope of MCPD? Firstly, permitting through the EA and/or other competent authorities will need to be carried out and the details on this are still not known. For some, the transition between Local Authority and Environment Agency permitted procedures will be a huge leap. Other changes for these operators will be the regulatory style and the need for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) that are compliant with Environment Agency requirements.

Emissions limits in line with the European Directive will be imposed on in scope plants and generators. However, existing plants will have derogations as to when permitting should be carried out, through derogations and permitting tranches. If your site is permitted before 19th December 2017 and in operation before 17th December 2018, then this is existing plant and will benefit from these derogations. In scope plants falling outside of these dates are deemed new plants and would be expected to be permitted straight away and similarly compliant.

Through the derogations, Emission Limit Values (ELVs) on specified pollutants should be applied from 20th December 2018 for new plants and by 2025 or 2030 for existing plants, dependent upon size. A monitoring regime will be required to demonstrate compliance with the permitted emissions limits and permitted facilities will be required to keep records of this monitoring for at least six years.

Mobile plant is included in MCPD and these mobile plants will be issued with a permit and the regulator notified prior to their deployment. Urgent deployments will be provided for although the detail of this is not currently known.

Generators are an area where there has been a lot of discussion and there are provisions to identify the types of generators and activities that are in and out of scope, including balancing services (in scope), testing or less than 50 hours (out of scope), as well as offshore oil installations and safety in the nuclear industry. The in scope (specified) generators can – if there are multiple such plant in one place with the same operator – be aggregated and aggregations over 1MW would be in scope with each individual generator being caught under MCPD.

While some detail has still to be released, we do have a clearer picture of who is likely to be affected and one thing is for certain, that a number of activities, facilities and operators will be caught by these new regulations, some needing permitting for the first time and others having a new and unfamiliar regulator. This could cause some confusion and worry, but with clear guidance and working with the regulators, these can be overcome and a smooth transition achieved. How the regulation of these sites and their subsistence pans out in the long term, remains to be seen.


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