Air emissions effectively reduced

The forest industry’s particle, sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions into the air account for less than 10 per cent of Finland’s total emissions. In recent years, total reduced sulphur compounds have been reduced to virtually insignificant levels thanks to efficient collection and treatment systems.

Over the past decade, the forest industry has spent on average EUR 15 million a year on air protection investments. Air quality objectives are easily achieved in industrial areas. Reducing nitrogen oxides remains a challenge. One of the forest industry’s strengths is its significant bioenergy self-sufficiency. Some two thirds of all renewable energy in Finland is linked to the forest industry. Energy efficiency agreements in Finland are a part of effective environmental work.

Pulp mills almost odour-free

The sulphur chemicals required in a pulp mill’s cooking process result in odours when they combine with organic compounds in wood. The odour compounds are, for example, methyl mercaptan, and their quantity is expressed with a TRS figure (Total Reduced Sulphur).

The odour gases are carefully collected at every stage of the process. They are treated in a separate incineration process or they are incinerated in the recovery boiler. The system incorporates several back-up systems to manage any process disturbances.

When it comes to sulphur compounds, people’s odour detection threshold is very low. Health risks are posed only when the odour detection threshold has been exceeded a thousand fold.

Air quality objectives in Finland are met easily. Most cases of limits being exceeded are related to long-range transboundary air pollution. Moreover, traffic accounts for a substantial share of emissions into the air.

Reducing nitrogen oxides remains a challenge

The amount of nitrogen oxide created in energy production has remained steady in recent years. Improving energy efficiency at pulp mills is the biggest reason nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions have not been reduced. A third of nitrogen oxide emissions from recovery boilers comes from the fuel, the lignin that is extracted from wood to make black liquor. The amount of nitrogen oxides is managed by directing combustion processes effectively.

The cost effects of BAT reforms on large combustion plants must be made more reasonable in national implementation

The BAT reference documents (LCP-BREF) specifying the best available techniques for large combustion plants were accepted by the Member States Committee in April 2017. The BAT reference documents describe the best available techniques available for large combustion plants, as well as the emission levels that can be achieved through its use. The Industrial Emission Directive and the Finnish Environmental Protection Act adopted in 2014 obligate combustion plants to comply with the emission levels specified in the reference documents.

Biomass plants were overshadowed by coal plants as the reference documents were being prepared. The Commission and the other Member States showed little understanding of matters concerning biomass, and the real emission reduction possibilities for biomass plants and the related costs were ignored. This led to unrealistically strict emission level requirements for biomass plants. Compared to coal plants, the requirements established for biomass plants are much more strict.

According to the report by Pöyry, for Finnish energy and forest industry, the approved emission level requirements would result in a total of EUR 430 million in investment costs concerning biomass and peat plants. According to Pöyry’s estimation, in addition to the investment costs, the annual operating costs would be increased by a total of EUR 30 million. It is essential that the cost effects of the BAT references are made more reasonable in national implementation. If this is not done, nearly one half of the above mentioned costs will fall on the forest industry.

According to the report by Pöyry, the resulting emission reduction costs targeted at Finnish plants would be largely out of proportion compared to the environmental benefits. Establishing such strict emission levels for the existing plants cannot be justified on environmental grounds. It must be kept in mind that the installation of emission reduction technologies and ensuring the applicability of these technologies is much more difficult for existing plants than in new ones.

Additional information

Fredrik Blomfelt

Manager, Environment

+358 40 705 7389