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Barely 3% of all acidifying emissions in Belgium

  • The sector accounts for only 14% of emissions from manufacturing as a whole, and 3% of the total for Belgium.
  • Since 1987, specific acidifying emissions of the sector have decreased with more than a factor 20 and are getting close to an asymptotic minimum. The sector continues to take into account the environmental impact – among other the NOx and SOx emissions – in its investment projects.

Source: E-PRTR, NEC Directive Inventory
As they have different acidification factors, SO2, NOx and NH3 are expressed in acid-equivalents (Aeq).

  • The sector in Wallonia has already reached its best possible results in the reduction of acidifying emissions. The voluntary agreement reached by the sector and the Flemish government has come to an end in 2013. The sector emitted 25% less NOx than the agreed ceiling.
  • Investments in process innovation have also led to SOx reductions in the sector. This has resulted in new business opportunities and resource efficiency improvements.
  • Substances such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3) can turn into acidifying components in the atmosphere. The so-called acid rains can affect human health, ecosystems and infrastructure.
  • In the chemical and life sciences industries, acidifying emissions originate mainly from fossil fuel combustion and the production of sulphuric acid, ammonia and nitric acid (used in producing fertilizers, cleaners and in refrigeration).

Sector initiatives

Substantial reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions at Akzo Nobel Chemicals

At the end of 2013, the company Akzo Nobel Chemicals located in Mons installed a new heat treatment line for the atmospheric emissions released during the production of nitrogen-containing derivatives. Thanks to this investment, it was possible to decrease emissions of NOx (nitrogen oxides) – expressed in kg / year – by 72%. This means that this company now achieves emission levels far below the permitted levels laid down in environmental permits. By doing this, Akzo Nobel is already anticipating the strictest European emission standards existing for NOx.

The installation also makes it possible to produce 35% more steam, which in turn can be used to provide energy for production facilities.

This system allows the NOx released during combustion to be transformed into harmless components (nitrogen and water). This process involves various steps, such as the ‘reburning’ phase. This is the phase in which part of the combustion gas is recirculated. The size of the installation allows the retention time to be sufficiently long to destroy all hazardous substances.

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Successful environmental agreement limits NOx emissions

NOx is released during combustion processes that take place in electricity production, transport, heating … NOx in combination with SO2 and NH3 contributes to the formation of acid rain. Furnace installations in the chemical sector are responsible for two thirds of NOx emissions; one third is caused by the chemical processes themselves.

In 2008, 50 members of essenscia made a commitment through an agreement with the Flemish government to further limit NOx emissions. The Environmental Policy Agreement, entered into for the period 2009-2013, established a maximum ceiling for NOx emissions. The Flemish government engaged to not tighten the NOx regulations, nor to make higher demands than those of the European Commission.

The 50 companies that signed the Agreement in 2008 kept their word. Thanks to the measures taken and investments made, the sector succeeded in lowering emissions by 2.4 ktonne to 8 ktonne. That is a reduction of more than 20%. As a result, the chemical industry today represents barely 3% of the total NOx emissions produced in Belgium.

However, the Agreement has yet another beneficial effect. It motivated the sector to make significant investments. More than 160 million euros were invested in reduction management. The result? The sector managed to lower NOx emissions even 25% more than what was stipulated in the MBO.

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