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Stricter air pollution rules for machinery agreed

Emissions from non-road mobile machinery are a significant source of air pollution, especially nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) directive – which dates back to 1997, but has been amended and extended several times since then – regulates emissions of the major air pollutants from diesel and petrol engines in a wide variety of off-road applications, including bulldozers, trains, chainsaws, larger inland ships and many other forms of machinery.

Despite the emission limits set by the NRMM directive, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particle matter (PM) pollutants from this sector are still high and have grown in relative terms. This is explained by the steep increase in the number of non-road machines put into service and by the fact that the emission limits set for NRMM are less strict compared to those mandated for similar engines used by road vehicles.

In 2010, the NRMM sector was responsible for around 15 per cent of the total NOx emissions and 5 per cent of the total PM emissions in the EU. While the PM share is expected to decrease, the NOx share is expected to increase to nearly 20 per cent in 2020.

Against this background, in September 2014 the Commission proposed a new regulation to strengthen the emissions standards. According to the Commission’s impact assessment, the stricter standards would bring benefits of between €26.1 and 33.3 billion by 2040, while the costs would be in the range of €5.2 to 5.8 billion in the same time period.

Negotiations between the EU’s decisionmaking institutions resulted on 6 April in a deal on new pollution limits and an implementation timetable that is largely in line with the Commission’s original proposal. The main exception is a weaker emission limit for NOx from barges.

The new harmonised type-approval conditions, including emission limit values, for new engines installed in non-road mobile machinery will start to apply gradually from 2018 up to 2020 depending on the category of the engine.

Added to the agreement is the possibility of retrofit requirements for existing engines to reduce their emissions. The Commission is tasked to assess the possibility of establishing EU-wide rules in this regard by 31 December 2018.

Moreover, a review to establish whether further emissions reductions are needed is to take place by 31 December 2020, with a particular focus on barges and trains.

Environmental groups criticised the weaker rules for barges and the fact that no particle number (PN) limit had been adopted for diesel locomotives.

Julia Poliscanova, air pollution manager at Transport and Environment (T&E), said: “More diesel machines will now be required to clean up their act with diesel particulate filters. But diesel trains and inland barges shouldn’t be allowed to belch toxic fumes while the technology to clean up the emissions is available and routinely fitted to modern trucks.

Moving more goods and people by rail and water shouldn’t result in a trade off for higher air pollution.”

Regarding the possible retrofitting of existing diesel off-road machinery, Julia Poliscanova said: “The Commission should present an ambitious proposal to clean up existing trains, barges and construction machinery, which will continue to be used for decades.”

Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near some railway stations and construction sites. Every year air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths and over 100 million sick days, costing society hundreds of billions of euro.

Before being finally adopted, the first-reading agreement will have to be confirmed by the Parliament and the Council, in accordance with the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure.

Christer Ågren

Sources: Council press release 168/16, 6 April, and T&E press release, 7 April 2016.

Huge health impacts from Balkan coal plants

New study quantifies the public health costs of polluted air from existing coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans at up to €8.5 billion per year.

New estimates of the huge health costs associated with air pollution from coal power plants in the Western Balkan region were published in March by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). The report provides an estimate of the total health damage from air pollution released from coal power plants in five countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

Currently home to 15 existing coal plants with an installed capacity of 8.1 gigawatt (GW), the region could see the installation of 24 new projects with 7.8 GW capacity. The estimated health costs of future coal plants are also shown in the report.

For its energy production, the region is heavily dependent on coal and lignite (the most polluting form of coal), and seven of the ten most polluting coal-fired power stations in Europe are located here (see table).

Table : The ten European coal power plants with the biggest emissions of sulphur dioxide (tonnes).

Table : The ten European coal power plants with the biggest emissions of sulphur dioxide (tonnes).

Air pollution is at levels that are up to two and a half times above national air quality safety limits and well beyond what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. According to the WHO, the estimated economic cost of early deaths from air pollution in Serbia amounts to 33.5 per cent of its GDP; in Bosnia and Herzegovina 21.5 per cent, in Macedonia 19.9 per cent and in Montenegro 14.5 per cent. By comparison, the figures for Germany and the UK are respectively 4.5
and 3.7 per cent.

The study puts the costs to health of emissions from existing coal plants in the five Western Balkan countries at up to €8.5 billion per year. This estimate covers costs directly related to air pollution from coal-fired electricity plants, including from premature deaths, respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, new cases of chronic bronchitis and lower respiratory problems, medication use and days of restricted activity due to ill-health, including lost working days.

A large proportion – more than half – of the health costs caused by air pollution from coal-fired power plants in the five Western Balkan countries is borne by the population in surrounding countries due to the transboundary effects of air pollutants being carried by the wind. According to HEAL, this shows that the EU’s current efforts to improve air quality in its member countries should not stop at its borders.

EU policy-makers should also put their weight behind demands for strong air quality and pollution control measures in its Western Balkan neighbours.

“Our new report quantifies the huge health costs associated with coal power generation in the Western Balkans, and uncovers the myth that coal is the cheapest form of energy,” says Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director of HEAL.

She continues: “Opting out of coal offers the prospect of a healthier and more prosperous future. The EU should encourage the change to a healthy energy future by significantly increasing financial support for renewables and energy savings – for example, under the pre-accession programme. It would improve air quality and help tackle climate change in both the Western Balkans and in the rest of Europe.”.

Christer Ågren

Source: HEAL press release 15 March 2016.

The report “The Unpaid Health Bill – How coal power plants in the Western Balkans make us sick” can be downloaded at:

Volvo sells 11 plug-in buses to Belgian city

volvo electric bus

Volvo has won an order for 11 plug-in hybrid buses from the city of Namur in Belgium, the largest order to date for the company’s electrified buses. The buses will run on electric power within the city’s new zero-emissions zone.

Public transport authority TEC, which transports more than 250 million passengers per year, is also buying two automated chargers from ABB.

TEC is buying the bus system as a turn-key solution. Volvo will be responsible for maintaining both the vehicles and the charging stations. The new e-buses are scheduled to go into service towards the end of 2016.

Volvo’s 7900 Electric Hybrid has an electric range of about 7 km. The batteries are fast-charged in a few minutes at end stops. The company estimates that the e-buses can be powered by electricity for up to 70% of operating time, and will deliver 60% lower energy consumption than a legacy diesel bus.

volvo electric bus 2

ABB’s bus charging system uses an inverted pantograph, and features a modular design offering charging power of 150 kW, 300 kW or 450 kW.

“Electric bus systems are cost-efficient solutions for cities to reduce the problems of poor air quality and noise. Together with ABB, Volvo has a complete and competitive offer for cities around the world that want to switch to a sustainable public transport system,” said Håkan Agnevall, President of Volvo Buses

European Commission keeps wasting energy on “waste-to-energy”

In December 2015, the European Commission launched the Circular Economy Package, which aims to bring a major shift in waste management, product and process design policies and consumption patterns that minimize the landfill and incineration of waste. Less than two months after, on Thursday February 4, the European Commission presented the Roadmap for the Communication on Waste to Energy, which sets the scope and terms for the Communication on waste-to-energy that will be published later on in 2016. As we read through it, this roadmap is a worrying step on four counts.

Firstly, the European Commission refers in this roadmap to non-recyclable waste as the perfect feed for an incinerator. However, no definition of non-recyclable waste can be found in the Waste Framework Directive or in the new proposal. The Commission mixes up non-recyclable waste with mixed waste, and while it’s true that mixed waste can’t be easily recycled, these are two different things.

While mixed waste is a problem of separate collection; non-recyclable waste is mostly a problem of product design. If properly separated, there’s no non-recyclable waste only non-recyclable materials and the solution to them isn’t burning, but re-design to make them fit into the circular economy.

Secondly, this road-map especially worrying because it ignores the role of civil society and local governments, as the Commission aims at consulting only Member States’ regulators, “waste-to-energy” plant operators, RDF producers, the recycling industry and other waste burning industries (chiefly cement kilns). Neither municipalities, nor NGOs are included in the list, despite the fact that waste incineration remains highly contested from NGOs to local neighbourhood associations and resident groups, citing a wide range of concerns from health and environmental issues to financial problems.

Moreover, it is worrying because it doesn’t include a clear roadmap on how to tackle existing over-capacities and, actually pushes for more inflexible facilities requiring long-time investment, such as district heating. It ignores that in a circular economy, disposal facilities should instead be flexible, allowing waste managers to adapt progressively to higher recycling rates and lower levels of waste production. Linking houses’ heating system to residual waste generation through very expensive long-term facilities isn’t the best incentive to promote reduction, reuse and recycling

Finally, granting so called “waste-to-energy” a role of within the Energy Union, is everything but doing a favour for the climate, since “waste-to-energy” is one of the most polluting, expensive, and inefficient forms of energy production available today. Burning waste will not contribute to secure energy supply, nor to the promotion of clean renewable energy to secure the reduction of our carbon footprint and the mitigation of climate change

Unfortunately this isn’t a systemic change, just more of the same.

Chinese firm plans €1bn Finnish biorefinery

Will produce 200,000 t/y second generation biofuel

CHINESE bioenergy company Sunshine Kaidi New Energy Group has announced plans to build a €1bn (US$1.1bn) wood-based biorefinery in Kemi, Finland.

The biorefinery will produce 200,000 t/y of second-generation biofuels, 75% of which will be biodiesel and the remainder biogasoline. The biorefinery will be the largest single investment ever made by a Chinese company in Finland, and Kaidi has established a Finnish subsidiary to oversee the project.

The biorefinery will be the first of its kind in the world, while the design will be based on Kaidi’s pilot plant in Wuhan, China. The feedstock for the plant will be sustainably-sourced wood, forestry industry waste and bark. Kaidi says it will need around 2m m3/y of wood, which will be sourced from within a 200 km radius of Kemi. The refinery will use plasma gasification to convert the organic matter into syngas, followed by a cleanup step to remove impurities. The refined syngas will then be subject to the Fischer-Tropsch process to make liquid hydrocarbons. The final products will be suitable for use as drop-in fuels or for blending with petrochemical fuels.

Construction on the site is expected to begin in 2017, with the plant beginning operations in 2019. The plant will employ around 150 permanent staff, with several hundred extra jobs created in wood harvesting, transportation and machinery manufacture. Finland’s forestry industry has suffered in recent years due to the downturn in paper demand, so this is likely to be a welcome boost.

Kaidi chairman and CEO Cheng Yilong said that Finland’s experience in the forestry industry and “positive political climate” had been big incentives to invest in the country.

“Finland is the most interesting investment target in terms of biofuels in the Northern Hemisphere. Finland’s bioeconomy policies are particularly advanced and ambitious, it has large biomass resources and many interesting co-operation partners,” said Cheng.

World’s first waste incinerator with carbon-capture tech

Carbon-capture technology has been deployed for the first time as part of a waste incinerator in Norway’s capital Oslo.

The experiment at the Klemetsrud incinerator will remove climate-warming carbon dioxide from fumes created by burning industrial and household waste. If successful, the technology could represent a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions if deployed on a larger scale.

“I hope Oslo can show other cities that it’s possible,” said the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, at an opening ceremony.

So far, carbon capture and storage technology has been experimented with in some fossil-fuel-fired power plants, but development has been hindered by high cost.

The Klemetsrud waste-to-energy incinerator, which generates heat to warm buildings in the city, produces 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – about 0.6 per cent of Norway’s man-made emissions.

The experimental carbon capture and storage removal system consists of five containers with a series of pipes and filters through which the exhaust gas is fed. It captures carbon dioxide at a rate of about 2,000 tonnes a year.

The experiment will run until the end of April. If the results are positive, a full-scale system could be built by 2020. Operators of the system say the carbon dioxide captured could be shipped to the North Sea and used for enhanced oil and gas recovery.

“We see potential in this market across the world,” said Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business, which runs the test.

The operators have admitted that at the current price of carbon credits, the technology is nowhere near cost-effective. However, they claim that as the incinerator burns largely organic waste from food and wood, it actually removes CO2 from the natural cycle and not only that industrially produced.

“It won’t be possible to achieve goals set in the Paris agreement without wide use of negative emissions,” said Frederic Hauge, head of environmental group Bellona.

Development of new technologies capable of offsetting the devastating effects of rising temperatures globally was also in the heart of the UN climate talks in Paris in December.

Earlier this week, climate scientists confirmed that 2015 was by far the warmest year on record – another extremely hot year in a string that started at the beginning of the 21st century. There is no doubt, the scientists said, that the situation is getting worse and is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite its potential, carbon capture and storage is still on the fringe. A 2015 report by the Australia-based Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute said there are just 15 big CCS projects in operation worldwide, including a coal-fired power plant run by Canada’s Saskatchewan Power.

EBA’s BIOMETHANE fact sheet

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Is Oil & Gas the New Tobacco? Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Reaches New Milestone

The growing campaign for divestment from the gas, oil and coal companies reached a new milestone today. Executive Director May Boeve announced more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets have now made at least a partial commitment to divest from fossil fuels. In France, 19 cities have just endorsed divestment, including Lille, Bordeaux, Dijon, Saint-Denis and Île-de-France. Last week, the French National Assembly adopted a resolution encouraging companies and local authorities not to invest in fossil fuels. Over the past few months, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has claimed a number of victories; Uppsala, Sweden and Munster, Germany divested from fossil fuels and the London School of Economics abandoned its holdings in coal and tar sands.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting live from COP21, the United Nations Climate Summit, here in Paris, France. We begin looking at a new milestone in the growing campaign for divestment from the gas, oil and coal companies that are fueling climate change. May Boeve, Executive Director of, made the announcement just before our broadcast today.

MAY BOEVE: We are very pleased to be announcing the new commitments to divest from fossil fuels and before I announce them to all of you, I just want to, once again, remind everyone what this movement for divestment is all about. We are here for a historic summit on climate change, and the divestment movement is about something quite simple: if it’s wrong to cause climate change, it’s wrong to profit from causing climate change. And the divestment movement has taken off all over the world with this as its rallying cry.

So without further a do, today we are announcing that as of today, total divestment commitments have passed the $3.4 trillion mark, that is $3.4 trillion of assets under management now Fossil-free. That includes a combination of different types of commitments, both commitments to full divestment, which we define as divestment from coal, oil, and gas, and also partial divestment, which includes one of those fuels or some other combination.

Now, I also want to say that because there are varying degrees of level of disclosure with these commitments, we don’t have the exact total of amount divested, but do know that standard portfolios contain around 3.7% of fossil fuels. But the point here has never been exactly how much is pulled out in that way. That is why we measure the total amount of assets. That’s for simple reason. A growing number of investors representing a growing amount of capital do not want to be associated with this industry any longer. It is a rogue industry. And that is what these commitments represent. It demonstrates that investors are taking climate risk extremely seriously.

So to close, I just want to highlight some of the commitments themselves. Over 500 institutions have committed to divest, that includes, just today, 19 cities here in France, including Bordeaux, Saint-Denis, and Dijon. The French Parliament has endorsed divestment. And between last September, when we announced the $2.7 trillion mark, and today, Uppsala became the largest city in Sweden to divest from fossil fuels, Münster became the first German city to divest, Melbourne, Australia, second-largest city committed, and the London School of Economics, another primary institution — we have someone to speak to that here. They have committed to divest.

So we’re really seeing a surge of commitments. It’s very exciting. And to close, I just want to say thanks to all the people who helped make all of these commitments possible. This movement works because it is powered by tens of thousands of individuals who are powering these commitments forward. So we thank you, all of you who fought for divestment, and who will fight for reinvestment of where those resources go. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s May Boeve of

Coal costs Turkey €3.6 billion a year

AcidNews June 2015

A new study shows that the public heath costs of polluted air from existing coal-fired power plants in Turkey are up to €3.6 billion per year. A cost that will increase significantly over the next four years, if existing plans to double coal power capacity with another 80 plants are implemented.

Coal power generation makes a considerable contribution to the country’s already huge air pollution problem. More than 97% of the urban population in Turkey is exposed to unhealthy levels of particulate matter, which is the most harmful pollutant for health.

Medical experts in Turkey advocate a change in energy policies to reverse investment into coal. Dr. Bayazıt İlhan, President of the Central Council of Turkish Medical Association, says: “A large coal-fired power plant emits several thousand tons of hazardous air pollutants every year and has an average lifetime of at least 40 years. The plans for a massive increase in investment would mean that coal’s contribution to respiratory and cardiovascular disease would continue for decades. This unhealthy future has to be avoided. We would like to see the Turkish government detaching itself from this polluted and outmoded source of energy.”

Source: HEAL press release, 20 May 2015.

The entire report “The unpaid health bill, How coal power plants in Turkey make us sick” is available at

Biogas solutions for methane abatement

AcidNews June 2015

Four Nordic projects for anaerobic digestion of manure show the potential for this methane abatement technique under varying conditions.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has published a report entitled “Nordic initiatives to abate methane emissions – A catalogue of best practices”. Five of the fourteen case studies are in the farming sector. Four of them are biogas projects.

Table: Comparison of the four projects.

Table: Comparison of the four projects.

Måbjerg Bioenergy plant in Denmark is one of the largest biogas facilities in the world. More than 140 suppliers provide the plant with manure slurry. Some of it is transported by pipeline, but most of the slurry gets there by road.

The biogas plant provides one heating plant and one central heating plant with gas that meets the heating needs of 5,000 homes and supplies 12,000–12,500 homes with electricity.

Lövsta is a medium-scale biogas plant run by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. It is fed with a manure mix from cattle, pig and poultry, as well as potatoes from a local farm and waste flour from a mill. The biogas it produces is used for electricity production and heating.

The cost of methane abatement is basically the same for Lövsta and Måbjerg, although the scale of production differs by a factor of ten.

The third plant, Brålanda, is actually a network of several plants connected to a network and a single refining facility. The capacity is quite similar to Lövsta. The refining of biogas allows it to be used as a vehicle fuel. The methane abatement cost is only slightly higher than for the previous two plants.

Most biogas plants that digest manure are designed for processing slurry (liquid manure). However in Sweden and in many other European countries, solid manure systems are still common in farming.

Sötåsen is a full-scale trial plant for digesting solid horse manure together with cattle slurry. The results showed that the plant was more efficient than when run on cattle slurry alone. Using straw as a bedding material gave a higher methane yield, but sawdust and granulated straw caused fewer technical problems in the system. The cost of methane abatement is about three times as high as for the other, larger, biogas projects in the report, but still less than half that of some similar-sized slurry only projects.

These four case studies show that there is potential for producing biogas from manure under varying conditions, when it comes to scale, substrate and topography.

Kajsa Lindqvist

Read about other methane abatement techniques in the full report: “Nordic initiatives to abate methane emissions – A catalogue of best practices”: