New permitting requirements for medium combustion plants and generators in Northern Ireland published
Published: 08 Mar 2018

New Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2018/33 will come into force on 20 March 2018 and introduce permitting requirements for medium combustion plants (MCPs) and specified generators.

Permits will be required from 20 December 2018 for all new MCPs, and there will be a phased in approach for permits for existing equipment based on the rated thermal output of the equipment. The amendments also include emission limits which MCPs operational for more than 500 hours annually must comply with.

There is also a phased in approach for permitting requirements for specified generators, dependent on the rated thermal input, nitrogen oxide emissions and operational time limits of the equipment.

Permitting requirements for medium combustion plants

A medium combustion plant (MCP) means a combustion plant with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 1 megawatt but less than 50 megawatts.

Permits or registration will be required for:

  • all new MCPs from 20 December 2018;
  • existing MCPs with a rated thermal input greater than 5 megawatts, from 1 January 2024;
  • existing MCPs with a rated thermal input of less than or equal to 5 megawatts, from 1 January 2029.

MCPs which operate for more than 500 hours per year (based on a five year rolling average), must comply with the specified emission limit values. These limits specify values for emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust. These emission limit values will apply from:

  • 20 December 2018, for all new MCPs;
  • 1 January 2025, for existing MCPs with a rated thermal input greater than 5 megawatts;
  • 1 January 2030, for existing MCPs with a rated thermal input of less than or equal to 5 megawatts.

Where an existing MCP operates for no more than 1,000 hours per year (based on a five year rolling average), in order to provide backup power production in islands connected to an electricity transmission system or distribution system, in the event of an interruption of the main power supply to an island, the MCP is not required to comply with the specified emission limit values, provided that the operator has signed a declaration stating such. However where such plant is firing solid fuels an emission limit value for dust of 200mg/Nm3 applies.

Permitting requirements for specified generators

Specified generators include:

  • a generator, other than an excluded generator, with a rated thermal input:
    • more than or equal to 1 megawatt and less than 50 megawatts, or
    • in the case of a generator used to meet a capacity agreement or an agreement to provide balancing services, less than 50 megawatts; or
  • where two or more generators are operated on the same site, by the same operator and for the same purpose, those generators together, provided that the rated thermal input of those generators together is less than 50 megawatts;
  • where two or more generators, other than excluded generators are operated:
    • on the same site, by the same operator and for the same purpose, and
    • together have a rated thermal input more than or equal to 1 megawatt and less than 50 megawatts, even if one or more of the generators has a rated thermal input of less than 1 megawatt,
    those generators together.

Permits will be required for specified generators from: 

  • 1 January 2019, in the case of a new generator;
  • 1 October 2019, in the case of an existing generator with a rated thermal input greater than 5 megawatts and less than 50 megawatts which:
    • has an emission of nitrogen oxides of equal to or greater than 500mg/ Nm3, and
    • operates for more than 50 hours per year;
  • 1 January 2025, in the case of an existing generator with a rated thermal input greater than 5 megawatts and less than 50 megawatts which:
    • has an emission of nitrogen oxides of less than 500mg/ Nm3, or
    • operates for less than or equal to 50 hours per year;
  • 1 January 2030, in the case of an existing generator with a rated thermal input equal to or less than 5 megawatts.

There are exemptions from the requirement for an environmental permit for specified generators:

  • used at a site to which it is not reasonably practicable to supply mains power;
  • a back-up generator in respect of which, in the opinion of the regulator, the operator has demonstrated a genuine need to carry out routine testing for more than 50 hours per year.

For more information see the:

  • Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2013/160.