Biomass Emissions - Regulations and Legislation

Biomass Emissions - Regulations and Legislation
Our market-leading, cutting-edge biomass boilers are among the first in the UK to have passed vital emission tests set by the energy watchdog Ofgem.
Rural Energy's Herz range, including the Herz Pelletstar, Firematic, BioMatic and BioFire biomass boilers, now have Ofgem’s Renewable Heat Incentive Energy Performance Certificate – which means they qualify for the Government’s green energy RHI cash boost from 24th September 2013 onward. We also carried out independent testing in Austria with our manufacturer Herz in order to ensure our technology met Ofgem's requirements before the RHI regulation was put into place.
Biomass boilers that don’t have the certificate or an environmental permit will not qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive Government payback.
If any participants in the RHI before that date then apply for additional capacity for their boiler after it, the boiler’s additional capacity will also need to meet the air quality requirements.
However, if owners received preliminary or have passed accreditation before September 24, their boiler will not need to comply with these regulations.
It is perceived that because Biomass boilers produce a level of particulate emissions, this will adversely affect the air quality and whilst it is true that it will not reduce the level of particulates, the increase caused by Rural Energy boilers will be negligible when compared to background levels or emissions, from traffic, for instance.
With the aim of meeting the national air quality objectives and EC directive 2008/50, local authorities in the UK have been carrying out an assessment of air quality in their area. If a local authority finds any places where the objectives are not likely to be achieved, it must declare an Air Quality Management Area and this can discourage the use of Biomass boilers. In general the level of particulate emissions is small in relation to the amount of heat supplied and is much less than produced by road vehicles.
However, there are optional extra abatement technologies available that will reduce the particulate emissions even further if considered necessary. These include ceramic filters, bag filters and electrostatic precipitators. The technology employed will depend on target emissions for the location and the constraints of the site.
The Clean Air Act
Because of their efficiency, the Rural Energy range of Herz boilers produce just a fraction of the emissions limit imposed by the Clean Air Act, and most of the commercial range are listed as “exempt appliances”.
The Clean Air Act of 1956 and 1968 were introduced to combat increasing smog pollution in cities and large towns. The Act gives local authorities powers to control emissions from industrial premises and to create “smoke control areas” where smoke emissions from flues are prohibited. They are in place in many towns and cities in the UK and have lead to a major reduction in smoke and sulphur dioxide emissions over time.
An offence can be to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, furnace or boiler, or to acquire an “unauthorised fuel” unless it is used in an “exempt” appliance.
The local authority Environmental Health Officer is responsible for enforcing the legislation in a smoke control area, however the Officer can approve the installation of a biomass boiler if satisfied that the appliance will not emit smoke and indeed, this is almost always the case. This is because the measured output of a commercial sized boiler with 400kW output shows a full load emission of 13.7g/hr, which is approximately 2% of the 700g/hr limit for a boiler of this size. In addition, all Herz commercial biomass boilers are “exempt appliances” as defined by the Clean Air Act and suitable for installation inside Smoke Control Zones.

Due to the high temperatures at which combustion takes place in a biomass boiler, nitrogen oxides (NOx) are emitted. Nitrogen oxides contribute to global warming in the upper atmosphere and to acid rain, which can damage trees and even entire forest ecosystems. However, the output of NOx per kWh of biomass can be very low when using the correct NOx reduction design and abatement equipment.

The aim of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. In general buildings can be assessed for their harm to the environment and standards are set to improve new buildings by reducing the level year by year. In fact biomass NOx emissions are considered low enough per kWh of heat produced to not only be a neutral influence on the overall BREEAM rating, but get close to providing a credit in the assessment against other environmentally negative influences.
This may not continue as standards increase, but biomass is clearly a positive way to restrict the NOx production overall.
There are other regulations in the UK, some are local to council areas, other national, and it is recommended that you check your biomass boiler supplier is up to date with current legislation.