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A raft of regulations and directives control how and where biomass derived fuels and conversion technologies can be used. These regulations need to be understood before a biomass heat or power generation project is initiated.
These apply to the growing and harvesting of woodfuels from trees, and their transport and importation.
Regulations applying to the combustion of biomass (and other) fuels for energy in a domestic context.
In addition there are a number of sets of regulations, including those that apply to industrial and commercial scale biomass systems.
Phase 1 of the Environmental Permitting Programme (2005-2008) created a single regulatory system to integrate Waste Management Licensing and Pollution Prevention and Control and create a simplified system. EPP 1 was introduced in 2007 as the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007, replacing individual 41 statutory instruments to provide industry, regulators and others with a single extended permitting and compliance system, called the Environmental Permitting System.
The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 provided an update to this and the Environmental permitting guidance: Core guidance is available on the gov.uk website.
Environmental permitting covers any activity that could pollute the air, water or land, increase flood risk or adversely affect land drainage. In the context of biomass for energy and woodfuel, this includes burning any form of biomass or wood categorized as a waste, disposal of the products of combustion (such as ash), or the transport or storage of material classified as waste.
An Environmental Permit is also required for specific classes of “installation” that produces potentially harmful substances, including incineration and co-incineration plant with or without energy generation. If classified as a Part A(1) activity then it is regulated by the Environment Agency; if Part A(2) or Part B then by the local authority. Part A(1) covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a rated thermal input (or aggregated output from all appliances on a site) of 50 MW or more and guidance is available from DEFRA: Environmental Permitting Guidance – Core guidance. Part A(2) applies to specific activities, not combustion processes. Part B covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a net rated thermal input of 20 MW or more, but less than 50 MW, and also burning waste oil in an appliance of less than 3 MW. Guidance on Part A(2) and Part B installations is also available.
The IED replaces the Waste Incineration Directive (WID), and includes many of the same provisions. The ‘thermal treatment’, which includes combustion, gasification and pyrolysis, of solids or liquids that can be defined as waste (‘which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’) is now covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive. Chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)applies to all waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants that thermally treat solid or liquid waste, unless an exclusion applies. Some plants also fall within chapter 2. There is guidance on waste incineration under Environmental Permitting.
There area number of specific wastes excluded from chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive:
However the Environment Agency have stated their position that they do not consider virgin timber as waste, and it is not subject to waste regulatory controls. This, however, only covers virgin timber, which is defined in their regulatory position statement. Timber that has been treated in any way, or used, is classed as non-virgin timber, and is not totally de-regulated in this way, though may still be exempt from IED if not treated with halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals.
In addition, experimental plants that are used for research, demonstration and testing, and also treat less than 50 tonnes of waste per year, are also excluded from the IED.
Plants that are excluded from the IED by virtue of the fact that they only treat excluded wastes may still require a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit, a Waste Management Licence or an Exemption.
Under very limited circumstances waste derived fuel (WDF) may cease to be waste before it is used as fuel if it has been subject to some form of processing, however this is subject to ruling by courts and is not expected to apply in many cases.
Thermal conversion of treated wood waste, as well as other industrial wastes and co-products, is most likely to be covered by the IED. In addition, material defined as ‘hazardous waste’ is subject to specific constraints under the IED. Timber from construction and demolition sites is also assumed to be covered by IED unless it can be shown to be otherwise.
The IED imposes requirements on the types of waste permitted at a given plant, delivery and reception of the waste, the thermal conversion equipment used and the operating conditions required, abatement plant, emissions monitoring requirements and emission limits values to air and water. Disposal of ash is not specifically covered by the IED, however other EU legislation is relevant, such as the Landfill Directive. Waste is defined as either non-hazardous under the IED (according to the European Waste Catalogue) or hazardous, and the technical requirements of the processing plant are different in each case.
The Building Regulations impose minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure safety and environmental performance. They cover such matters as health and safety for people in and around the buildings and energy efficiency. Building Regulations Part J cover combustion appliances and fuel storage systems and cover issues such as fire safety, provision of ventilation and requirements for flue design and dimensions.
Information about Building Regulations and Planning Permission from the Directgov website.
The Approved Documents of all the individual Parts of the current Building Regulations, including Part J, can be downloaded from here.
Some information on the Planning Portal from their “Common Projects” section about when planning permission might and probably won’t be required for a biomass boiler.
The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were a response to the smogs of the 1950s and 60s and allowed local authorities to define smoke control areas. They were consolidated into the Clean Air Act of 1993.
Within smoke control areas authorised fuels, which include gas, electricity anthracite and specified manufactured smokeless fuels, may be used. Any other fuels, including wood and pellets, may only be burned in an exempt appliance that has been specifically tested and approved under the Clean Air Act.
Defra guidance on the Local Authority Pollution Control (LAPC) regime consists of:
The Large Combustion Plant Directive applies to combustion plants with a thermal output greater than 50 MW.
There is information on Environmental permitting and the LCPD on the .gov.uk website. There is also a guidance document available.
Plant Health controls apply to a wide range of imported wood products. This includes material imported for use as woodfuel.
Plant Health Import Regulations applying to biofuels. From the Forestry Commission May 2011 (PDF 34 kB)
Plant Health guide (PDF – 250 kB)
Plant Health guide (PDF – 267 kB)
Requirements for landing controlled material into Great Britain. From the Forestry Commission. (PDF709 kB)
FAO Forestry paper No 164. A guide from the FAO on phytosanitation in forestry (PDF – 1.5 MB)
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