Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction Plans Coming for Large Industrial Boilers

A court decision may have upset the timing of new regulatory requirements for many industrial boilers, but new rules almost certainly are coming.

By Ajay N. Kasarabada, P.E.


Editor’s Note:

On June 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an order effectively killing all existing Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules for industrial boilers. The rules had been set to take effect in September. The ruling also applied to solid waste incinerator emissions. The court sent back to the United States Environmental Protection Agency two sets of regulations to be rewritten. EPA and other parties to the lawsuit will have to decide whether or not to file a stay that would hold up the Court’s decision until the environmental agency actually files new regulations to replace those now rendered inapplicable.

If the Court’s decision does take effect, no industrial, commercial and institutional boiler MACT rules or commercial and industrial solid waste incineration (CISWI) rules will be in force. If a stay is allowed, the current rules may go into effect at least until new EPA rules are promulgated. This would offer some regulation pending completion of new rules, a process expected to take four years.

Consideration has to be given, as well, to the so-called MACT “Hammer” (Sec. 112(j)) that kicks in around mid-August and that subjects all affected sources, in the absence of federal MACT rules, to state requirements on which EPA has provided guidance.

It seems unlikely that any new revisions to the Boiler MACT by the EPA will take effect before mid-2008. Nor does the June court decision create much uncertainty in the boiler sales market. The uncertainty that has plagued equipment suppliers and end-users is being offset by the need to deal with an aging fleet in times of high and unstable energy prices.

Facilities that are major sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are required to minimize HAP emissions by applying maximum achievable control technology (MACT). The MACT regulations are codified under 40 CFR Part 63 and are applicable to various defined source categories. One such source category, the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters, is regulated under 40 CFR Part 63 Subpart DDDDD, commonly referred to as the boiler MACT.

The boiler MACT in its current form requires existing large coal-fired industrial and utility boilers (under 25 MW) to meet emission limits for particulate matter (PM) or total selected metals (TSM), mercury (Hg) and hydrogen chloride (HCl), as well as other operational limits. A boiler or process heater is thought to be existing if construction on it began before January 13, 2003. The MACT provisions also require affected facilities to develop startup, shutdown and malfunction plans (SSMP).

Owners or operators of affected facilities must develop SSMPs in accordance with the MACT General Provisions (40 CFR §63.6(e)(3)) and the boiler MACT provisions (40 CFR §63.7505(e)) by the MACT compliance date. The original date for boiler MACT compliance for existing units had been September 13, 2007. The court’s June ruling, if “mandated/published”, could affect emission limits and delay the compliance date, making the exact compliance date uncertain. If the Court’s ruling is stayed on appeal, then the compliance date will likely continue to be September 13. Regardless of which direction the boiler MACT rule is headed, now is the time to be prepared to comply with the SSMP requirement.

The SSMP is incorporated by reference into the facility’s Title V permit and is a public document. The intent of the SSMP is to minimize emissions of HAPs during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) and not necessarily to control excess HAP emissions to the level required by the MACT standard. More specifically, as outlined in 40 CFR §63.6(e), the purposes of the SSMP are to:

  • Ensure that affected sources, including associated air pollution control and monitoring equipment, are operated and maintained at all times in a manner consistent with safety and good air pollution control practices for minimizing emissions.
  • Ensure that preparations are made to correct malfunctions as soon as practicable after their occurrence in order to minimize excess emissions of HAPs; and
  • Reduce the reporting burden associated with periods of SSM (including corrective action taken to restore malfunctioning process and air pollution control equipment to its normal or usual manner of operation).

The SSMP is required to have these basic components:

  • Detailed procedures for operating and maintaining affected sources during periods of SSM that result in excess emissions.
  • A program of corrective actions for malfunctioning processes, and air pollution control and monitoring equipment used to comply with the relevant standard.
  • A system for periodic review and updates to the SSMP.

Recent SSMP Regulation Changes

On April 20, 2006, the final amendments to the MACT general provisions were published. They required SSMPs to be developed for MACT affected facilities. Prior to this, SSMPs needed to be “developed and implemented.”

The final amendments to the MACT general provisions removed the word “implement” from the regulations. The final amended regulations now allow owners or operators of affected facilities the flexibility to use any reasonable procedure whether or not the procedure is part of their SSMP during startup and shutdown events. If emissions were not exceeded during such an event, then owners or operators can record and eventually report such events semi-annually.

Previously, owners or operators had to record and report every action during a startup and shutdown event that was not consistent with their SSMP within two working days (immediate reports by phone or fax) followed by a detailed written report within seven working days. This held even if the emissions during an event were less than the MACT limits. The final amendments clarify that reporting and recordkeeping are required:

  • When a startup or shutdown (or actions taken during a startup or shutdown) causes the applicable emission standards to be exceeded, and
  • For any occurrence of malfunction which also includes potential exceedance.

Such record keeping and reporting would need to include information on actions taken to minimize emissions during such periods of SSM. When the actions are consistent with the SSMP, the records can include a checklist that confirms conformance.

Recent rule changes significantly reduce record keeping and reporting related to SSM events. Still, the amended rules continue to require immediate reports when the response to a startup or shutdown is not consistent with the SSMP and causes emissions to be exceeded. That also applies to when a malfunction (including action taken to correct a malfunction) is not consistent with the procedures specified in the SSMP.

In amending the rules, EPA also clarified that developing an SSMP is not an applicable requirement under the MACT. The applicable requirement is the “general duty” clause (40 CFR §63.6(e)(1)(i)) requiring affected facilities to minimize emissions at all times including SSM events. In other words, when affected facilities show they did their best to minimize emissions during SSM events by operating in accordance with their SSMPs, then any exceedance during SSM events is not a violation of MACT, only a deviation.

Since satisfying the “general duty” clause is the applicable requirement, the Title V permit cannot require owners or operators of affected facilities to submit an SSMP to their respective state agencies. However, the Title V permit can list the general duty requirement to minimize HAP emissions during SSM events and require owners or operators to develop an SSMP. State agencies may request a written copy of an SSMP that an owner or operator has kept on file in-house if they receive a request from the public, or if they see continuing issues with deviations reported during SSM events in the semi-annual compliance reports or the two-day immediate reports.

An Obvious Question

It seems logical to wonder why if SSMPs are not required to be implemented or are not to be part of an applicable requirement in a Title V permit, a need exists to develop an SSMP?

The EPA explains in its rulemaking discussion that the development of SSMPs helps owners or operators of affected sources “to think through and document actions to take during SSM events.”

The EPA further seeks to clarify that SSMPs will help sources more quickly address SSM events to minimize emissions during those periods. EPA also believes SSMPs may help state permitting authorities streamline determinations of whether emissions are minimized during SSM events. If it is established that emissions are minimized by following the plan during a particular SSM event, making that determination when a subsequent similar SSM event occurs should be much less burdensome assuming the plan has not been revised.

Developing the SSMP

Developing an SSMP is primarily a collaborative effort between environmental and O&M personnel. If complex unit operations are involved, such as multiple emission units with multiple air pollution control devices and continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS), outside assistance may also be needed. Here are the steps we recommend for developing an effective SSMP. They can also be used to form the basis for an outline of the actual SSMP document template.

Applicability – As a first step, owners or operators should discuss boiler MACT applicability, applicable MACT emission limits, what constitutes a potential deviation of MACT limits during SSM events, process units and equipment subject to the boiler MACT regulations and who is responsible. This would mean the plant manager, shift supervisor, O&M manager, electrical supervisor and control room operator during SSM events.

For example, a facility using a dry scrubber might not have CEMS for PM or Hg, and has decided to use the 20 percent opacity operating limit option for PM and Hg emissions. In this case, the general duty requirement to minimize emissions during SSM events is likely tied to the 20 percent opacity limit. In other words, the opacity limit is the surrogate tracked by a continuous opacity monitoring system (COMS), and the SSMP must address opacity as the parameter that will be monitored.

SSM Definitions – The next step is to develop a specific definition for what constitutes SSM for all affected equipment and continuous monitoring systems (CMS) that could potentially result in exceedances of emissions of PM, HCl and Hg. The MACT General Provisions (40 CFR §63.2) provide definitions that owners or operators can consider while developing facility-specific definitions for SSM.

Startup is defined as the setting in operation of an affected source or portion of an affected source for any purpose.

Shutdown is defined as the cessation of operation of an affected source or portion of an affected source for any purpose.

Malfunction is defined as any sudden, infrequent, and not reasonably preventable failure of air pollution control and monitoring equipment, process equipment or a process to operate in a normal or usual manner which causes, or has the potential to cause, the emission limitations in an applicable standard to be exceeded. Failures that are caused in part by poor maintenance or careless operation are not malfunctions.

Malfunction Scenario List – After SSM definitions have been developed, there may be potential malfunction scenarios that would produce excess HAP emissions, so additional plans must be prepared. Malfunction scenarios can be developed by using existing standard operating procedures and any malfunction abatement plans (MAPs) developed to comply with any state-specific rules, existing alarms in the operators’ control room, compliance assurance monitoring (CAM) plans under 40 CFR Part 64, and having brainstorming sessions between environmental and O&M personnel.

Malfunctions Recording – Based on the list of malfunction scenarios, a description of operations of applicable units/equipment during malfunctions and steps (or corrective actions) taken to minimize HAP emissions needs to be developed. Owners or operators will also need to describe how they plan to record and later report the cause of both known malfunctions (identified in the previous step) and unanticipated malfunctions (not previously identified in the SSMP), and what they intend to do to minimize HAP emissions. Some examples of malfunctions for industrial boilers include failure of ID fans and boiler tubing, blown fabric filter bags, loss of power to ESP, incorrect information displayed by COMS or COMS failure and scrubber pump failure. Planning a response to a malfunction scenario, including recording and reporting of the time and duration of malfunctions, needs to be discussed during the brainstorming sessions between the environmental and O&M personnel. Environmental management systems can also be used in conjunction with existing data acquisition systems to record and report malfunctions.

Startup and Shutdown Procedures – Owners or operators will need to develop a list of startup and shutdown procedures and steps to be taken to minimize emissions. Owners or operators also need to record and report what procedures need to be followed if a startup or shutdown scenario that was previously not identified occurs.

Maintenance of Affected Equipment- The SSMP needs to identify specific maintenance procedures for all affected equipment, including emission units, air pollution control devices, and associated CMS. CMS can consist of COMS or CEMS. Owners or operators can incorporate existing CMS auditing, calibration and certification procedures into an SSMP. Owners or operators are also required to maintain an onsite inventory of critical spare parts for the CMS, in accordance with the MACT general provisions.

Reporting Requirements – Two kinds of reports are required under the MACT general provisions – immediate SSM deviation reports, and the semi-annual SSM reports. As previously mentioned, the April 2006 amendments to the MACT general provisions significantly reduced the reporting burden for owners and operators of affected facilities.

Owners or operators of affected facilities should seek to integrate the SSMP recordkeeping and reporting with any concurrent semi-annual Title V reporting. It would be beneficial to piggyback the SSMP semi-annual reports with the Title V semi-annual reports, if it can be negotiated with the respective state agency. This will considerably reduce multiple submissions to the state agency.

SSMP Revisions – If an SSMP fails to address or inadequately addresses an event that has the characteristics of a malfunction but was not included in the SSMP at the time the plan was developed, owners or operators are required to revise the SSMP within 45 days after the event. The revised SSMP must include detailed procedures for operating and maintaining the source during similar malfunction events and a program of corrective action for similar malfunctions of process or air pollution control and monitoring equipment. Owners or operators must keep the previous version of the SSMP on site for up to five years.

Supporting Documentation – As part of the SSMP supporting documentation, owners or operators can include in the SSMP appendix, any current SOPs, applicable MAPs, inspection and maintenance procedures, current corrective action procedures, quality assurance-quality control procedures for CMS, determination and adjustment of calibration drift, preventive maintenance information including spare parts inventory, and audit procedures. Any sample recordkeeping, reporting, inspection and maintenance log sheets/forms can also be included.

Author: Ajay N. Kasarabada, P.E. is a senior air quality engineer with Black & Veatch. His responsibilities include MACT compliance strategy development; managing air permitting projects and developing air permitting strategy; and preparing air permit applications, control technology assessments and negotiations with regulatory agencies.

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