End of an era

The old way of tracking emissions via dozens of spreadsheets is risky if not impossible. Real-time solutions are now becoming vital. Paul Reinermann reports

Emissions trading programmes and aggressive enforcement mean that manufacturers must either understand their emissions performance at all times, prevent poor performance, or do both.

Preventing poor performance generally means either over control of emissions or over reaction to short-term excursions that result in lost production and profits.

Not only are manufacturers forced to comply with increasingly stringent governmental emissions regulations, many are seeking to reduce compliance complexities, costs, risks and capitalise on emissions trading programs. The newer requirements, such as IPPC and Bref, have added more emission sources, processes, and pollution control monitoring requirements.

Permits and regulations
tend to push the envelope of emission controls, making compliance even tougher. Data historians and spreadsheets worked fine when emission standards were looser. But, with emissions trading programs, emissions take on a new importance: money.

The old way of tracking emission records via dozens of spreadsheets is risky if not impossible. The combination of data historian and spreadsheets has resulted in embarrassment for many a corporate official.

In addition to being unable to provide an instantaneous insight into environmental performance, tracking emission records by spreadsheets has many other problems.

Most environmental managers will tell you there are dozens of spreadsheets at a plant site, managed by many individuals with these systems of record and report creation being error prone and having no easy way to find errors or track corrections.

Furthermore, spreadsheets are not accessible to the majority of operators, engineers, and managers for making on-the-spot operational changes or economic decisions. Therefore, these systems are not sustainable or verifiable.

One spreadsheet is generally built to document compliance for an individual source for one single requirement. Each additional source-requirement combination requires the development of an additional spreadsheet.

If the spreadsheet is passed onto someone new and not understood, a new spreadsheet will be developed, and the past spreadsheets are forever lost. With all of these limitations of spreadsheets in mind, the better remedy is to seek a real-time emissions performance management system to actively determine emissions compliance status and assist operations in making better decisions.

There are a handful of solutions that claim real-time emission performance management on the market today. Critical requirements for in a true real-time solution include:
  • Actively acquire emissions and process data from data historians, control systems and other data repositories within the plant site
  • Actively evaluate all incoming data and alert to performance problems - 100% quality assurance when the data is acquired
  • Actively combine data into the base compliance records
  • Actively aggregate the base compliance records into the correct averaging or totalling time
  • Actively evaluate compliance records and alert to performance problems
The key concepts of a real-time emissions performance management solution are to monitor emissions performance actively and to have the analysis, transformations, aggregations, and evaluations reflective of the requirements and site specific conditions.

Actively means to perform the steps all the time in real-time - not after-the-fact, on-demand, once a day or once a week.

One thing is for certain, the era of being able to know your emissions performance any hour of the day has arrived.

Paul Reinermann is director of environmental and regulatory affairs at Pavilion Technologies, Inc.

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