MoEFCC finalises emission standards for small boilers; but silent on whether they’re applicable for Delhi-NCR

Techno-centric policies, cleaner fuels needed to shave off industrial emissions

By Anubha Aggarwal, Nivit Kumar Yadav
Published: Friday 02 June 2023
Representative photo: iStock.__

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) finalised the draft notification for tightening particulate matter (PM) emission specifications for industrial boilers based on different fuels in May 2023.

The industries employing boilers that use different fuels, thermic fluid heaters and hot air generators have to comply with the PM standards within two years of introducing the new rules. 

Unlike its draft version of June 2022, the new rules have also specified emission norms for different capacity boilers that are based on agro-residue or bagasse to generate steam. 

Other than finalising the specifications for these boilers, the PM norms for certain categories have been relaxed from the limit proposed in the draft notification. 

The relaxation applies to boilers that generate 10 or more tonnes of steam per hour using coal, pet coke, furnace oil, light diesel oil, or low sulphur heavy stock.

  Draft Notification New notification
Boiler capacity (tonnes per hour) coal, pet coke, furnace oil or Light Diesel Oil (LDO) or Low Sulphur Heavy Stock (LDHS) coal, pet coke, furnace oil or Light Diesel Oil (LDO) or Low Sulphur Heavy Stock (LDHS) Agro-residue (biomass) or bagasse
Less than 2 500 mg/Nm3 500 mg/Nm3 500 mg/Nm3
2 to less than 10 150 mg/Nm3 150 mg/Nm3 250 mg/Nm3
10 and above 50 mg/Nm3 100 mg/Nm3 250 mg/Nm3

A table showing emission standards for combustion in boilers. Compiled by the authors.

PM emission norms for these boilers have been diluted to 100 milligrams per normal cubic metre (mg/Nm3) from the proposed limit of 50 mg/Nm3 in the draft notification released in June last year.

Also read: CAQM’s focus on captive thermal power plants in Delhi-NCR a welcome step, but challenges ahead

The draft notification had also proposed industries with boilers with capacities of 10 tonnes per hour and above to install continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) to monitor PM and sulphur di-oxide stack emissions — but the notified rules exempted such units from complying with this obligation.

CEMS is an automation system that continuously monitors the gaseous emissions (such as PM, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and others) from stacks of industries. It helps ensure industrial compliance with minimal inspections by the state pollution control boards. 

NCR and adjoining areas 

The commission for air quality management (CAQM) in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas had pitched the PM emissions standard from biomass-based boilers at 80 mg/Nm3; in fact, CAQM intended industries to bring it down to 50 mg/Nm3 gradually. 

However, the latest rules are too lenient as they have increased the permissible limit for emissions by three-six times of CAQM standards, depending on the boiler capacity. It is unclear if these relaxed standards will be applicable in the NCR and adjoining areas or if the industries in the region will have to adhere to the more stringent norms.

Authority CAQM MoEF&CC
Date of notification/direction 17th March, 2022 16th May, 2023
Applicability Industries in NCR and adjoining areas All industries (other than power sector)
PM emission norm for biomass based boilers 80 mg/Nm3 250-500 mg/Nm3 based on the boiler capacity
PM emission norms for boilers using other fuels 80 mg/Nm3 100-500 mg/Nm3

A table comparing MoEFCC notification with CAQM guidelines.

Similarly, for industries using fuels other than biomass in their boilers, the standards are too relaxed compared to CAQM norms. 

The new rules are definitely an improvement over the old PM standards that ranged from 150-1200 Nm3. But these are still way more relaxed compared to the standards set up by CAQM for NCR and adjoining areas. If the industries under the jurisdiction of CAQM can comply with stringent norms, the rest may also try adhering to stricter standards. 

What more can be done? 

Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) analysed the challenges faced by industries while shifting towards cleaner fuels and the strategies adopted to combat them.

The non-profit came up with a report titled Refuelling Delhi-NCR after an in-depth survey of the industries in the Matsya Industrial Area (MIA) and Bhiwadi in the Alwar district.

Of the 15 biomass-firing industries surveyed, only one unit with a sophisticated air pollution control device (APCD) was able to meet the PM emission norms, the report stated. The rest were found to be flouting the norms; they were using less efficient APCDs or were running without any pollution control equipment.

Read more: Stuck on coal: CSE finds little progress by Delhi-NCR power plants in using biomass pellets

The new notification gives clarity to industries of different scales and types on what standards are to be followed by them, but these rules may not be adhered to by industries on the ground. 

State pollution control boards (SPCB) do not have an adequate workforce to manually conduct site surveys for such a huge number of boilers that are rampantly scattered all over its jurisdiction. 

In such a scenario, formulating stringent rules alone may not be very useful unless its implementation is also thought through. 

As was the case with reducing emissions from brick kilns, the major thrust was given to using cleaner fuel, such as natural gas or shifting to cleaner technology like zigzag kilns, where inherently, the emission is lower if the kiln is constructed properly.

Similarly, the standards formulated by the government for industries need to be technology-centric, accompanied by incentivising the use of cleaner fuels in these industries and gradual phasing out of obsolete technologies by a capital-intensive process.

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