Efficiency through emission measurements

Operators of power plants, waste incineration plants and industrial plants record the concentration of gas and dust emissions by means of continuous monitoring systems. Three ÖNORM standards ensure safety and reliability of measurements, while a dedicated ONR rule provides guidance on practical application.

Spittelau waste incineration plant
Credit: AS prm / stern

Emitting almost 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, the People's Republic of China now heads the list of global climate offenders. The country satisfies the thirst for energy resulting from its breath-taking economic growth largely with the help of coal-fired power plants. This has dramatic consequences: China's north where the capital Beijing with a population of 11.5 million people is situated is engulfed by smog. According to an international long-term study, this reduces the life expectancy of residents by five years.

In contrast, emissions considerably decreased in Europe and the US in the past few years. Apart from the financial crisis, this is especially due to regulatory measures. In September 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants and thereby made a first step towards US-wide emission standards.

The European Commission declared 2013 the year of air and presented measures to improve air quality in Europe. These include the review of directives on air quality and national emission ceilings that define limits for certain pollutants.

Pollutant measurements for optimized combustion

When different fuels are fired, the emissions contain carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other substances such as particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide that characterize the quality of the combustion process. In line with the state of combustion technology, limits are defined for those substances. Compliance with the parameters stipulated does not only protect the environment from air pollutants, but also ensures optimum combustion in the plants. Thus, operators of thermal power plants, for example, can optimize firing under all load conditions and fully exploit the fuel used. If fuel consumption is optimized in this way, CO2 emissions decrease – for the same energy output.

Quality of measurements is decisive

Optimum firing requires valid information on the current composition of emissions. To monitor reliably compliance with the limits stipulated, continuous measurements and records on the development of gas and particulate matter emissions over time are necessary. It is only on the basis of those data that deficiencies in combustion can be recognized and remedied immediately. The quality that measurement systems have to reach to be suitable for monitoring limits and measure air pollutants in emissions is governed by several standards.

"The operators of such plants can optimize the emission behaviour of their processes through continuous monitoring. Compliance with the normative quality requirements for measurement systems has to be demonstrated both before they are used (suitability testing) and while they are operated. Thus, the plant operator can be sure that the measurement data available reflect the actual composition of the emissions so that effective measures can be taken in case of malfunctions. As a result, they comply with environmental and health protection requirements and, what is more, they can significantly raise the efficiency of their systems thanks to state-of-the-art measurement equipment," says Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Erich Polzer of synlab Umweltinstitut GmbH.

Emissions are efficiency indicators

While the original intention was to curb the emissions of specific industries, continuous measurements made it possible to control and optimize processes systematically. "Emissions are very sensitive indicators for the efficiency of a plant or process," states Erich Polzer: "Compliance with the limits defined contributes to operating a plant in a very careful and very economical way. This opportunity of efficient process monitoring did not exist before." To exploit this potential, you need appropriate standards for gathering and analyzing measurement data and for ensuring their comparability. "The point is that a continuous measurement and analysis system needs to have certain features," explains Mr Polzer who significantly contributed to the development of related standards in Committee 139 "Air quality" of Austrian Standards. "For example, the system must be able to detect certain substances. As the equipment is continuously in operation, it has to be durable and able to measure reliably within a defined range."

Three standards reveal emission behaviour

ÖNORM M 9411 covers measurement equipment and systems that record the concentration of gas pollutants and particulate matter – i.e. the emissions of a plant. It describes the characteristics and equipment parameters that are decisive for the correctness and reproducibility of measurements. In addition, the standard provides guidance on the installation and maintenance of the equipment. ÖNORM M 9412 defines requirements for equipment used for recording, analyzing and outputting emission data measured. These are relevant for all plants emitting air contaminants and having stationary continuous emission measurement systems. The three parts of the standard deal with data collection and output (part 1), suitability testing (part 2) as well as acceptance and periodic inspections (part 3). Finally, ONR 19412-1 explains the application of ÖNORM M 9412-1 to plants subject to the Austrian Act on Boiler Plant Emissions (EG-K) and the Regulation on Air Emission Measurements (EMV-L). ÖNORM M 9413 describes how reports on measurements are to be prepared.

The standards help operators to demonstrate and document the emission behaviour of their plants. In Austria, the Regulation on Air Emission Measurements (EMV-L) makes their application mandatory and stipulates that both measurements and limit values have to be recorded. The fact that other statutory regulations also make reference to these standards evidences the practical value of the specifications.

The long-standing experience of Austrian experts in the field of emission measurements is also appreciated in China. When a delegation of the Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China visited Austrian Standards last year, the guests showed particular interest in two subjects: energy savings and emission reductions. Thus, Austrian know-how may benefit the environment and the quality of life in China sooner or later.

Author: Herbert Hirner


ÖNORM M 9411 Continuously working concentration measurement equipment for emissions of air contaminants - Requirements, installation and maintenance
ÖNORM M 9412 Requirements for evaluation equipment for continuous measurement of the emission of air contaminants
Part 1: Data collection and output
Part 2: Suitability test
Part 3: Acceptance inspection with control of the parameters on site and periodic inspection
ÖNORM M 9413 Report for emission measurements - Requirements on the preparation
ONR 19412-1 Guidance for the application of ÖNORM M 9412-1 for plants in the scope of the EG-K and EMV-L

PR-ID: 0675-2013-10-10 / efficiency_emission_measurement