Like it or not, the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations are coming to the refinery sector by 2006.

Like it or not, the Pollution Prevention and Control
(PPC) Regulations are coming to the refinery sector by 2006.

Many industrial sectors are already
reeling from the impact that this new regime has had on their business. While
it is true that refineries already operate under tremendous regulatory scrutiny,
the imposition of yet another environmental permitting regime, may leave
organisations struggling to plan ongoing activities, due to the uncertainties
associated with this burdensome piece of legislation. So can the experiences
of other industrial sectors, that have already complied with PPC regulations,
help to reveal what it will mean to UK refineries, and are there any positive
experiences to be gained?

First we must look at the evolving sustainable, legislative
and fiscal context within which IPPC is set. The environmental sustainability
agenda is currently running ahead of the legislative process and is being
pulled by consumers and pushed by manufacturers, their suppliers, customers
and employees. Value chains that link manufacturers to their raw material
suppliers and to their customers are being increasingly bonded by strategic
partnerships. Manufacturers, and indeed retail outlets, are seeking to oversee
the whole of their value chain to protect their brand or reputation.

For most refineries that fall under the new PPC regulations,
preparing a permit application will not be their first opportunity to consider
the environmental aspects of their business. The past two decades, that brought
such inauspicious events as the Exxon Valdez spill and the Brent Spar debate,
have certainly focused the oil industry towards environmental sensitivity
and sustainability. Although IPPC does not specifically promote sustainability
per se, it is engaging many operators, who would have otherwise ignored this
societal change or actively resisted it, to provide some with their first
experiences of the sustainability agenda.

Firstly, let’s clear up a common point of confusion.
The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC) embraces
a number of industrial processes and has been implemented by the Pollution,
Prevention and Control Regulations. It applies an integrated approach to
the regulation of certain industrial activities in the form of a PPC Permit
and uses the concept of Best Available Technique (BAT) to balance costs to
the operator against benefits to the environment. Some industrial sectors
(eg cement and lime, metals, and energy) were previously regulated under
Integrated Pollution Control (IPC), the predecessor of IPPC and these sectors
are no strangers to regulation. Other sectors (eg waste management) were
already regulated under other regimes such as Waste Management Licensing
and are well used to (although not very happy with) a rapidly changing regulatory
environment. However, many businesses, with no previous history of regulation,
are now falling beneath the IPPC umbrella, notably food and intensive agriculture.
IPPC is impacting on several individual parts of the value chain (for example,
intensive agricultural practice, energy supply, food manufacture and waste
disposal and recovery) with those who didn’t plan for this, being caught
on the hop.

With a little bit of courage, IPPC can actually afford
several opportunities to refinery operators. Operation under a PPC permit
implies a certain seriousness about operations and willingness to identify,
deal with, monitor and report environmental impacts. It leads to transparency
that can be shown to and appreciated by customers, consumers and stakeholders.
Operation under a PPC Permit can be used as part of a market differentiator
by demonstrating environmental credentials. Secondly, with the stakes of
non-compliance so high, the preparation of a PPC application will require
a level of introspection and senior management support that is unlikely to
be motivated by any other than regulatory drivers. This has already had the
effect of reducing environmental liabilities in many industries.

Many operators are finding increasing competition
for good staff and are discovering that a reputation as a good environmental
steward is seen as attractive to many individuals who are seeking to work
with companies that reflect their own personnel values. Key individuals informed
about the environment are seeking to influence senior managers and boards
and are finding that IPPC is giving them an opportunity to be heard. IPPC
promotes the use of environmental management systems (EMS) and this can be
a very public statement. It is interesting to consider whether environmental
requirements may eventually achieve parity with Health and Safety requirements.

IPPC considers each installation as a ‘black box’
with not so much interest in the internal workings of the industrial process
but more on the inputs to that box and the outputs (or emissions) from it.
Inputs certainly include raw materials but also energy, air and water. Outputs
will include waste, emissions to air, and energy (heat) loss. Brainstorming
the inputs and outputs is often the first stage in preparing any application
and often is usefully facilitated by an outsider to take a fresh look at
something that appears so familiar. To those industrial sectors that have
already commenced making a PPC application, this can be an edifying experience,
bringing various levels of management together to consider a common goal.

IPPC is forcing fundamental questions to be asked
about matters that would otherwise carry on regardless. Why do we still use
that chemical? Why don’t we recover that material? How much waste do we send
away for disposal? Can we recover that heat? Can we recover that waste material
and turn it into a saleable product? Preparing a permit application will
also provide a window onto the outside refining world through interactions
with regulators, consultants and trade associations. Other operators will
benchmark themselves against their competition with respect to techniques,
processes and emissions.

The requirements of the Landfill Directive are also
being implemented through IPPC and are having a fundamental impact on the
disposal of industrial waste. The continued operation of in-house landfills
and particularly lagoons for permanent filling is becoming increasingly unattractive.
This leaves manufacturers to send their waste for off-site disposal. However,
the introduction of waste acceptance criteria, the banning of liquid waste
disposal, the expected dramatic fall in the number of hazardous waste sites
from July 2004, the expected increase in landfill tax and gate prices sharply
focuses attention on waste issues. Consequently, all refineries need to re-examine
their processes to increase recovery and reduce waste disposal.

IPPC requires site characterisation to identify existing
pollution in or under the land. For many long existing industrial sites,
the prospect of investigating the state of the underlying ground is hardly
an attractive proposition and there are genuine fears about the implementation
of the contaminated land regime. However, the drivers for doing this extend
beyond IPPC into protection of the permit holder and into risk and liability

The refining world is changing and maintaining brand
or reputation is one of the most powerful influences on that change, more
so than regulatory drivers or fiscal incentives. Regulation is providing
prescriptive requirements to many processes but it is admittedly in danger
of stifling a lot of the technology and innovation that refining process
needs. So, some observers are anticipating a long-term trend away from regulation
to the use of fiscal incentives. However, within the sustainable agenda,
the carrot and the stick will continue to play an increasingly influential
role over the medium term. Furthermore, in Golder Associates’ experience
of helping organisations meet the demands for compliance with regulations,
such as IPPC, we have found that many businesses under-estimate their impact
on the environment. However, sustainability is rapidly spreading throughout
society; and manufacturers, that are seeking to meet the requirements of
international and national legislation, set and meet environmental targets,
and then turn sustainable characteristics into competitive differentiators.
Consequently, such introspection and probable realisation of environmental
aspects can then realise real rewards – saving costs, process efficiencies,
staff loyalty and perception of customers, consumers and stakeholders.

Source :