EPA Hopes to Impose Stricter Standards for Some Industrial Boilers

Certain types of industrial boilers might soon be subject to stricter requirements. In early July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed amendments to the 2013 National Emission Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAP) for Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters.

Designed to reduce toxic emissions from certain types of boilers, the proposed updates address shortcomings highlighted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and seek bring them into line with Clean Air Act requirements. The proposed changes include:

  • Revising 34 of 90 emission limits for select boilers.
  • Updating rationale for the use of carbon monoxide as a surrogate for controlling organic hazardous air pollutants.
  • Updating rationale for the EPA’s original determination that setting a CO standard below 130 parts per million would fail to provide an additional organic HAP reduction.

Regulating Boiler Use

Designed to generate steam or hot water for onsite use in select industrial plant operations, boilers may emit a variety of air pollutants. The EPA estimates there are roughly 444 boilers currently subject to the emission standards under revision, and of those, an estimated 33 would need to take action to further reduce emissions.

Individual emissions from each boiler are typically small, according to the EPA, but when combined, total emissions are substantial. Some of the pollutants emitted from boilers include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrochloric acid, mercury (from coal-fired boilers, and trace amounts of other heavy metals.

These pollutants can cause a variety of respiratory issues, most notably asthma in children and seniors, according to the EPA.

2015 Updates to Boiler Emission Standards

In January 2015, the EPA announced the reconsideration of its final rule on national emission standards for the control of hazardous air pollutants(HAP) from new and existing industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers and process heaters at major sources of HAP. The EPA sought public comment on the following three issues:

  • Definition of startup and shutdown periods and the work practices that apply during these periods.
  • Revised CO limits based on a minimum CO level of 130 parts per million.
  • The use of PM CPMS, including the consequences of exceeding the operating parameter.

In November 2015, the EPA announced its final decision, which included:

  • Maintaining the minimum carbon monoxide limit of 130 parts per million.
  • Upholding the particulate matter continuous parameter monitoring system. requirements from the January 2013 final rule.
  • Making minor changes to the proposed definitions of startup and shutdown work practices during these periods.

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