Coal-fired power stations are responsible for the emission of the largest volume of pollutants to air of all large combustion plants across Europe, data published by the European Environment Agency has suggested.
In a report, ‘Releases of pollutants to the environment from Europe’s industrial sector’, published on Sunday (9 July), EEA – the EU’s environmental watchdog – analysed data on pollutant emissions to air and water from the largest industrial facilities including power plants, petrochemical refineries and metal processing plants in 2015.
Member States are required to report the data under European Union (EU) rules. Data is gathered via the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).
Air pollutants measured include nitrogen oxides, PM10 particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and heavy metals.
According to EEA, good progress is being made by the EU towards climate and energy policy objectives for 2020 and 2030, but coal-fired power plants continue to be responsible for the largest amounts of key pollutants released to air from all combustion facilities.
EEA adds that the top industrial polluting facilities are located throughout Europe and, not surprisingly, they are often clustered in areas with high industrial activity.
Half of the identified facilities responsible for the largest releases of pollutants to the environment are located in the United Kingdom (14 facilities), Germany (seven), Poland (five) and France (five).
For air pollution emissions, four facilities — all of them coal fired power plants — appear as top polluters for three different pollutants (CO2, SO2 and NOx), these include Be?chatów in Poland, the Drax power station in North Yorkshire, Jänschwalde in Germany and Kozienice in Poland.
The data suggests that Drax, which is predominantly coal-fired but is switching to more of a biomass feedstock is the second largest emitter of nitrogen oxides per year across Europe, releasing close to 31,400,000 kg.
Other facilities listed include the Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife, which closed in 2016, the Aberthaw power plant in South Wales, as well as metal processing sites in Wales, Teesside and Scunthorpe.
However, EEA suggests that Europe’s large combustion plants have significantly improved their environmental performance over past years, releasing fewer emissions to air per energy unit consumed.
The organisation, noted: “Coal remains the most used fuel in large combustion plants — power plants, refineries or large chemical plants and steelworks — despite a decreasing amount being used over recent years. Still, these facilities have significantly improved their environmental performance over past years, releasing fewer emissions to air per energy unit consumed. Biomass use in combustion plants remains minor, but has increased threefold between 2004 and 2015.â€?