Implementation of this efficient pollution monitoring system caught in delays

Continuous Emission Monitoring System is a set of equipment that monitors and sends emission data to pollution control agencies every 15 minutes

By Rohan Gupta
Published: Monday 16 September 2019
In 2014, the CPCB asked 17 categories of highly polluting industries to install CEMS and by now, 4,251 industries have. Photo: Reuters
In 2014, the CPCB asked 17 categories of highly polluting industries to install CEMS and by now, 4,251 industries have. Photo: Reuters In 2014, the CPCB asked 17 categories of highly polluting industries to install CEMS and by now, 4,251 industries have. Photo: Reuters

By design, it is a robust technology to monitor emissions by highly polluting industries. By default, it is a self-regulatory mechanism. CEMS, or Continuous Emission Monitoring System, is a set of equipment that monitors and sends emission data to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and to the respective state pollution control boards every 15 minutes.

Continuous monitoring helps pollution control boards as well as the industry to keep pollution levels in check on real-time basis. As industries know they are being watched, violations have reduced. Repeat offenders are paid visits by an inspection team of the pollution control board and action is taken as per its report.

For the pollution control board, this means less work and better monitoring. Earlier, monitoring was done manually every 3-6 months, at times even annually. Since the system is automated, it can be of great use in India where resources are meagre and infrastructure is weak.

In February 2014, CPCB asked 17 categories of highly polluting industries, such as distilleries, tanneries, oil refineries, sugar mills and cement plants, to install CEMS. There are a number of CEMS technology equipment in the market. Industries have to pick the one that best suits their category.

By now, 4,251 industries across the country have installed the system. “But poor data quality is one of the biggest challenges for the success of CEMS in India, and needs to be resolved with no further delay. Solutions are available, but determination is required to get them implemented within the timeframe,” says Sanjeev Kumar Kanchan, chief strategy and development officer, Knowledge Lens, which helps industries implement cems and provide them other related technical solutions.

Industries do not have technical knowledge or skilled manpower to select the suitable technology. They also lack awareness about the correct way to install them, and do not know whom to approach for maintenance.

Often, the choice of CEMS technology is controlled by cost. “Since its installation does not add to profits, industries tend to install the cheapest ones,” says Prasad Mukherjee, vice-president of Technology at Adage Automation, cems equipment supplier in Navi Mumbai.

Even when an appropriate equipment is installed, lack of knowledge pushes them to place it incorrectly, resulting in inaccurate data. cpcb inspectors say most units have old infra-structure and don’t have enough space to follow installation guidelines. Seven Star Steels in Odisha was sent a showcause notice on July 8, 2019 as its Particulate Matter (PM) analysers were not calibrated and thus reported faulty data.

CEMS is a sensitive equipment and requires regular maintenance. At present, its responsibility lies with the technology supplier. Mukherjee points out that most of the suppliers do not have the manpower to regularly maintain equipment of all their clients.

“A number of problems would get solved if industries take the initiative to maintain their own systems,” says Shobhit Srivastava, programme officer, Industrial Pollution, at Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.

Calibration plays an important role in achieving data accuracy. A third party laboratory empanelment seems to be the solution to this. Understanding the need, cpcb has decided to bring about a laboratory empanelment system to certify labs for conducting calibration procedu-res for cems installed in industries.

JS Kamyotra, former CPCB director, believes handholding of instrument suppliers, their service partners, the state pollution control boards and the pollution control committees is urgently required to bring down functional difficulties. 

THE PROBLEMS that plague the system may have been averted had CEMS been introduced after the groundwork was laid. But CPCB issued the guidelines for CEMS operations in 2017, three years after directing industries to install it. For the industries, cems installation was nothing more than a CPCB directive to be followed.

According to the guidelines, CEMS components, especially analysers, must have certification from TUV from Germany or from MCERTS (Environment Agency of England and Wales Monitoring Certification Scheme).

In India, industries use equipment that have foreign certification. Any equipment that is not certified must undergo performance tests during installation similar to the US Environment Protection Agency-based system.

Understanding the need for an Indian system of certification, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on August 22, 2019, designated the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) as the verification and certifying agency. The specifics have not been formulated yet. 

The notification is timely considering the life of many of the CEMS equipment are getting exhausted. Indian certification will not just enhance data credibility from indigenous equipment, but also to reduce equipment costs. This, in fact, is an opportunity for stakeholders to improve the CEMS implementation scenario.

CEMS is still new in India, but efforts are on to bring emissions monitoring at par with global standards. “Over the years, data generation has improved, more so, in the industries in the Ganga basin,” says B Vinod Babu, nodal officer, waste management, CPCB.

The US and European industries have been using the technology for the past 40 years and have established a powerful monitoring system. India has been unable to fully use it as a monitoring technology due to delays in effective implementation of the cems regime. The need of the hour is for cpcb to have a time-bound action plan with a clear vision on how it wants cems to be adopted as a compliance monitoring tool.  

(This article will be published in Down To Earth's print edition dated September 16-30, 2019)

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