A raft of regulations and directives control how and where biomass derived fuels and conversion technologies can be used. These regulations need to be understood before a biomass heat or power generation project is initiated.
N.B. This section has not been updated recently and so some of the information is likely to be out of date. We apologize for this and hope to update these pages as soon as possible
Environmental Permitting Programme (EPP)
Phase 1 of the Environmental Permitting Programme (2005-2008) created a single regulatory system to integrate Waste Management Licensing and Pollution Prevention and Control and create a simplified system. EPP 1 was introduced in 2007 as the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007, replacing individual 41 statutory instruments.
Environmental permitting covers a any activity that could pollute the air, water or land, increase flood risk or adversely affect land drainage. In the context of biomass for energy and woodfuel, this includes burning any form of biomass or wood categorized as a waste, disposal of the products of combustion (such as ash), or the transport or storage of material classified as waste.
An Environmental Permit is also required for specific classes of "installation" that produces potentially harmful substances, including incineration and co-incineration plant with or without energy generation. If classified as a "Part A(1) activity then it is regulated by the Environment Agency; if "Part A(2)" or "Part B" then by local councils. Part A(1) covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a rated thermal input (or aggregated output from all appliances on a site) of 50 MW or more. Part B covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a net rated thermal input of 20 MW or more, but less than 50 MW, and also burning waste oil in an appliance of less than 3 MW.
Waste Incineration Directive (WID)
The 'thermal treatment' which includes combustion, gasification and pyrolysis of solids or liquids that can be defined as waste ('which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard') is governed by the Waste Incineration Directive (WID). Guidance on the WID is available from Defra (Environmental Permitting Guidance The Directive on the Incineration of Waste). The guidance states that 'for the purposes of the WID 'waste' has the same meaning as in the EC Waste Framework Directive (WFD)', however there is no definitive list of what is and is not waste beyond the statement above, leaving courts to be the final arbiter. There are, however, a number of specific wastes excluded from the scope of WID:
- vegetable waste from agriculture and forestry
- vegetable waste from the food processing industry (providing the heat generated is recovered)
- fibrous vegetable waste from pulp making (provided this happens on the site of waste generation and the heat generated is recovered)
- wood waste (with the exception of wood waste which has been treated with wood preservatives or coatings containing halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals)
- cork waste
- radioactive waste
- animal carcasses covered by the Animal By-Products Regulations
However the Environment Agency recently announced their position that they do not consider virgin timber as waste, and it is not subject to waste regulatory controls. This, however, only covers virgin timber, which is defined in their regulatory position statement. Timber that has been treated in any way, or used, is classed as non-virgin timber, and is not totally de-regulated in this way, though may still be exempt from WID if not treated with halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals.
In addition, experimental plants that are used for research, demonstration and testing, and also treat less than 50 tonnes of waste per year, are also excluded from the WID.
Even plants that are excluded from the WID by virtue of the fact that they only treat excluded wastes may still require a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit, a Waste Management Licence or an Exemption.
Under very limited circumstances waste derived fuel (WDF) may cease to be waste before it is used as fuel if it has been subject to some form of processing, however this is subject to ruling by courts and is not expected to apply in many cases.
Thermal conversion of treated wood waste, as well as other industrial wastes and co-products, is most likely to be covered by the WID. In addition, material defined as 'hazardous waste' is subject to specific constraints under the WID. Timber from construction and demolition sites is also assumed to be covered by WID unless it can be shown to be otherwise.
The WID imposes requirements on the types of waste permitted at a given plant, delivery and reception of the waste, the thermal conversion equipment used and the operating conditions required, abatement plant, emissions monitoring requirements and emission limits values to air and water. Disposal of ash is not specifically covered by the WID, however other EU legislation is relevant, such as the Landfill Directive. Waste is defined as either non-hazardous under the WID (according to the European Waste Catalogue) or hazardous, and the technical requirements of the processing plant are different in each case.
The Building Regulations impose minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings. They cover such matters as health and safety for people in and around the buildings and energy efficiency. Building Regulations Part J cover combustion appliances and fuel storage systems and cover issues such as fire safety, provision of ventilation and requirements for flue design and dimensions.
Information about Building Regulations and Planning Permission from the Directgov website
The Approved Documents of all the individual Parts of the current Building Regulations, including Part J, can be downloaded from here.
Some information on the Planning Portal from their "Common Projects" setion about when planning permission might and probably won't be required for a biomass boiler.
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were a response to the smogs of the 1950s and 60s and allowed local authorities to define smoke control areas. They were consolidated into the Clean Air Act of 1993.
Within smoke control areas authorised fuels, which include gas, electricity anthracite and specified manufactured smokeless fuels, may be used. Any other fuels, including wood and pellets, may only be burned in an exempt appliance that has been specifically tested and approved under the Clean Air Act.
Defra guidance on the Local Authority Pollution Control (LAPC) regime consists of:
- a short, simple 3-page guide to LAPC
- a statutory General Guidance Manual which sets out the procedures and policy
- statutory process guidance (PG) notes which set out the Secretary of State’s view on what constitutes Best Available Techniques for each of the main sectors regulated to control their air emissions (so-called “Part B” activities)
- statutory sector guidance (SG) notes which do the same for the sectors regulated under integrated pollution prevention and control (so-called “A(2)” activities
- a set of additional guidance (AQ) notes covering various other issues
- miscellaneous other guidance.
Updated guidance from DEFRA on IPPC Part A(1) installations and mobile plant, covering those burning biomass fuels >50 MW, and those burning waste or waste derived biomass exempted from WID, >3 MW
Statutory Guidance for Boilers and Furnaces, 20‑50 MW thermal input
Statutory guidance for combustion of waste wood
NB Virgin wood residue is no longer categorized as waste by the Environment Agency, as of October 2007
Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD)
The Large Combustion Plant Directive applies to combustion plants with a thermal output greater than 50 MW.
There is information on Environmental permitting and the LCPD on the .gov website. There is also a guidance document available.
Ash dieback (Chalara Fraxinea) Regulations
The recent discovery of Chalara Fraxinea in ash trees in Great Britain required the passing of legislation on 29th October 2012 to minimize the spread of the disease. It's primary impact is to restrict the importing and movement of ash trees for planting.
If a site is found to have Chalara infection, a Plant Health Notice will be issued. This prevents the movement of all ash material from the site, however the wood may be used for fuel on the site. For sites that are free of infection there is no restriction on the sale of firewood and wood chips.
There is general information about the disease on the Forestry Commission website at: www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara
There is also a specific page on the impacts of the legislation on the timber and firewood trades
There is a useful Q&A document on the effects of the legislation.
Plant Health controls apply to a wide range of imported wood products. This includes material imported for use as woodfuel.
Plant Health Import Regulations applying to biofuels. From the Forestry Commission May 2011 (PDF 34 kB)
Plant Health guide (PDF - 250 kB)
Plant Health guide (PDF - 267 kB)
Requirements for landing controlled material into Great Britain. From the Forestry Commission. (PDF 709 kB)
FAO Forestry paper No 164. A guide from the FAO on phytosanitation in forestry (PDF - 1.5 MB)