Plant & Works Engineering
Does your boiler need a new permit?
Published:  31 October, 2018

You can be forgiven for not realising that the Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD) was transposed into UK legislation around the beginning of the year, and the implementation date is just around the corner. Emissions to atmosphere are a hot topic at present, and this legislation is designed to help the fight against excessive amounts of NOx, SOx and dust in the air we breathe. PWE reports.

Any individual boiler, engine or turbine burning any fuel that is first used on or after 20th December 2018 will need to apply for a permit to operate. Registration is required for each and every combustion unit you have on your site that is larger than 1MW nett rated thermal input, but less than 50 MW; 1 MWth is equivalent to approximately 1.25 tonnes of steam per hour or 450 kVA electrical output. Diesel engines, and gas engines and turbines are included, especially smaller diesels under 1 MW that are used for grid support activities in England and Wales.

Users with plants in use before 20th December 2018 who can prove they were operating will be classed as ‘existing’ and have longer to comply.

Am I exempt?

Unlikely. The list of exempt plants is fairly short and only includes boilers where the products of combustion are used for directly heating the space or the product; transport, agricultural and offshore installations; R&D, crematoria, and a few chemical plant and refinery specialist combustion activities. Every combustion plant must be registered with the Competent Authority.

There is an exemption for plants that operate for less than 500 hours per annum, but the exemption is from compliance with ELVs (Emission Limit Values), not from registration or measurement of emissions. Full details of these exemptions are in the original directive.

Who is the Competent Authority?

In England and Wales the Environment Agency (EA) will be responsible. They have taken the old Environmental Permitting Regulations and amended them to include MCPD under the title of The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. This can be downloaded from but you will also need a copy of the original EU Directive 2015/2193 to refer to the detail and the schedules.

In Scotland, a slightly different regime applies, and the Scottish Government have produced The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2017 which will be implemented by SEPA (The Scottish Environment Protection Agency). The situation in Northern Ireland is less clear at the time of writing as there was nothing on the Northern Ireland Assembly web site referring to MCPD.

What do I have to register?

The original directive gave a list of the things an operator has to declare to register their plant (Directive annex 1), and this includes the obvious details like who the operator is, what fuel is used, and where and what type of plant it is. EA application forms proposed for operator registration of standard combustion plants also require you to know if you are near an environmentally sensitive site (Natura 2000), if you are in a local authority Air Quality Management Area, and the background NOx level for your location, amongst other things.

Standard Rules permits are only applicable to new plants burning a single fuel and rated less than 20 MWth in low risk situations. The EA have produced SR2018 No 7 standard rules for new, low risk, stationary Medium Combustion Plant 1 to < 20MWth (in operation after 20/12/2018) that describes the requirements that allow a Standard Rules application.

All other MCPs will require Bespoke permits as currently advised.

When do I register an existing plant?

The deadline for registration of an existing MCP in England and Wales that is 5 MWth or more is 1 January 2024; there is an indication that in Scotland this date will be 6 months earlier. For the smaller plants 1 to

However, if you have an existing plant that is not required to be registered until 2024 but you do something to change the emission limit values from that plant before it is required to be registered, that plant becomes a new plant. So, if you have been burning HFO for example and you get the opportunity to burn gas, from the date you commission the plant on gas it is ‘new’ and must meet the new plant ELVs and potentially be aggregated with any other plant on site, at the discretion of the Competent Authority.

How much is this going to cost?

Standard Rules permits from the EA are priced according to the number of MCPs on site, so the application fee ranges from £446 to £813 for one to 15 MCPs at the same location. In addition to the application fee there is a variable fee for annual surveillance of between £194 and £620 p.a., and additional fees for transferring the permit to another operator and for surrendering the permit if the MCP is no longer used.

If you need a bespoke permit the fees are going to be significantly greater since there is more work to be done by the operator to explain how their plant operates and what it does, and more work required by the Competent Authority to assess the application. Annual surveillance fees for Bespoke permits will be charged on a time and materials basis.

Who is going to measure the emissions?

The EA have produced a new guidance note TGN M5 - Monitoring of stack gas emissions from medium combustion plants and specified generators. This outlines the process for emissions measurements for MCPD compliance and allows suitably qualified service organisations to carry out routine measurements of standard MCPs. So companies that routinely service burners, for example, can take regular readings of combustion and emissions and the boiler owner can use this data to demonstrate MCPD compliance.

There are a few caveats however; the service organisation must use MCERTS approved instruments that are calibrated and serviced regularly, they must operate within a quality management system that has UKAS third party approval, and they must work to the detailed requirements of TGN M5. They may then take regular emissions readings and report the highest figures they read in the measurement cycle (one or three years) to the Competent Authority.

All other MCPD measurements must be taken by MCERTS approved organisations who have to work to a significantly more stringent set of rules, and they may require additional facilities to be installed on the plant such as access platforms for taking dust measurements where the ELVs require it, for example.

So, what happens now?

Current EA advice is that 12 weeks’ notice is required for the application to register and operate a new MCP, so if you are planning to get that new boiler commissioned early in the New Year you need to get your application completed now.

Guidance and documentation is still being finalised, so the advice given here is the best we have available at the moment, but it might change as the detail emerges. The Combustion Engineering Association (CEA) is advising all boiler operators to make sure that any plant you have that is not yet commissioned is completed before Christmas, and that all your combustion plants have a record of being used before 20 December if you want to claim they are ‘existing MCPs’ and delay the permit application.

The CEA hs been running conferences to explain all the new rules on MCPD to interested boiler owners and manufacturers, and the next conference is at Tankersley Manor Hotel near Sheffield on 6th December 2018. Please contact the CEA if you need any more information and we will do our best to assist.

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