The Delimara IPPC process
A public consultation exercise is being carried out on the processing of an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) application to allow the extension to the Delimara power station to begin operating. However, the response received so far indicates that this type of application is not widely understood.
Over the last months, the Environment Protection Directorate at the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has been processing Enemalta’s application for an IPPC permit for the Delimara extension. The existing plant at Delimara is already regulated by an IPPC permit, and this would be a variation of that permit to incorporate the new extension.
This IPPC application does not set the energy strategy for Malta. Its primary role is to ensure that EU emission limit values and the requirements of the IPPC directive and the air quality framework directive are respected, to achieve a high level of protection for the environment as a whole.
IPPC permits are required by EU legislation, and they aim to improve the management and control of industrial processes. These permits require the operators of specific industrial or large livestock installations to prevent and control pollution, through a variety of measures known as “best available technique”.
This is completely different to a development permit, which grants a one-time permission to carry out some development on a site. Conversely, an IPPC permit is an ongoing operational permit, which requires renewal and monitoring, and is surrendered when the activity in question ceases and the plant is decommissioned.
Throughout the EU, different sources of fuel are used to generate electricity through combustion. Oil, gas, coal, biomass and various other sources can be used, however, fossil fuels are the most common. The choice of technology and fuel made by different countries is often influenced by the local availability of the various fuels, as well as operational requirements and market conditions.
The process of combustion has an impact on the environment, as it can generate pollution through emissions and waste. The EU’s “best available technique” guidelines aim to ensure that this pollution is managed to the required standards. How should Mepa determine what is considered to be “best available technique” for large combustion plants like the Delimara extension?
These matters are outlined in the IPPC directive, and in reference documents called BREFs which are issued by the EU after wide consultation with member states, industry and European NGOs.
The IPPC directive requires Mepa to set emission limit values based on “best available technique”, without prescribing the use of any technique or specific technology but taking into account the technical characteristics of the installation, its geographical location and the local environmental conditions.
In all circumstances, the conditions of the IPPC permit must ensure a high level of protection for the environment as a whole. To achieve this, BREF documents recommend the “best available technique” that may be applicable to the installation under consideration. This approach emphasises the prevention of pollution through improving operating practices and investing in technology where required.
One of the documents describes large combustion plants, such as the Delimara extension. It stipulates a range of associated emission levels for various types of fuel that might be used by a large combustion plant, depending on the equipment used.
The document covers a range of issues, for example, the use of low-sulphur varieties of the chosen fuel, or certain pollution control techniques. It can be viewed at http://eippcb.jrc.es/reference/lcp.html .
Where the document does not adequately describe “best available technique” for a particular process, the IPPC directive specifies a list of considerations to be taken into account, bearing in mind the costs and benefits. This is why Enemalta’s application was required to include a study which estimates the financial costs and environmental benefits of operating the Delimara extension using three different types of fuel – heavy fuel oil, gas oil (diesel) and gas.
IPPC permits also regulate the management of waste and outline the monitoring to be carried out, as well as protection and emergency measures, among other issues.
Such permits can be issued if specific environmental standards are met, and the operators apply measures to prevent or reduce any pollution that they may cause.
The Delimara IPPC application consists of a series of reports and studies, which are available on the Mepa website, at Mepa’s front desk in Floriana, or at the offices of the Marsaxlokk, Birżebbuġa and Żejtun local councils.
The public consultation started on August 24 and remains open until Friday. The public, environmental NGOs and all interested parties are invited to submit their comments. Mepa has also facilitated consultation meetings organised by the operator to meet and listen to local councils and environmental NGOs.
Following the public consultation period, the Environment Protection Directorate, in consultation with the IPPC committee, will present a recommendation to the Mepa board for consideration.
Dr Bianchi is director for environment protection at the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.