The sky's the limit for MCERTS
There are several factors for regulated industries to consider when choosing a company to measure their emissions to air. Daniel Keating of AES, reports
The introduction of MCERTS, the Environment Agency's monitoring certification scheme, has led to greater scrutiny on the technical competence and academic knowledge of stack testing engineers, as well as a closer examination of the operations of monitoring organisations.
To some it may have come as a culture shock, but the benefits of embracing the scheme are clear for all to see. The drive for improved consistency, accuracy and reliability of emissions monitoring data is undoubtedly correct and well founded. Those who were among the first to receive certification have benefited from the credibility it bestows as an official seal of approval, testifying the quality service that can be expected. This must encourage those who are still working through the process of becoming accredited, or who are only now considering it.
The benefits of MCERTS are not only felt by the testing organisations and their customers, stack monitoring engineers themselves can benefit from the hard work that they put into passing the examinations. Here the reward is the prospect of enhanced career progression and personal development.
Above all, MCERTS is good news for regulated industries - they gain from having greater confidence in the environmental data they receive. By using an accredited supplier there is the potential to improve Operator Monitoring Assessment scores, which can lead to a reduced level of regulatory pressure from the Environment Agency. MCERTS also aims to create a level playing field among emissions testing firms so that selecting a supplier is less of a lottery and customers are assured of receiving the required level of service and expertise.
The sting in the tail is of course the cost implication. Greater consistency, accuracy and reliability do not come without a price and an increase throughout the industry is only to be expected in order to continue to provide the desired level of service. As a result, it will become more and more important for testing organisations to demonstrate efficiency and cost-effectiveness in order for customers to feel that what is being delivered offers good value for money.Depth of knowledge
One way of doing this is to tap into the depth of knowledge possessed by the leading stack testing companies and form a closer working relationship so that this expertise is fully utilised. Companies whose scientists actively participate in technical committees for the European and international standards bodies CEN and ISO (as well as BSI in this country), have advanced knowledge of forthcoming standards which impact on the measurement of air emissions. This participation bestows the advantage of being able to influence the development process to the benefit of regulated industry and the actual stack emissions monitoring businesses.
For example, a further challenge in the near future is the introduction of new emission monitoring standards endorsed by the European standardisation body, CEN. The new standards (such as Quality Assurance of AMS and Determination of Specific Elements) will be top of the hierarchy of methods and must be adopted and duly followed by stack testing companies.
Participation in the development of these standards enables companies to plan ahead and be in a position to implement the new standards first. Those who can offer this added value should be rightly perceived as technical consultants and not simply data gatherers. They should be used accordingly in order for stack testing customers to reap the best value. For instance, one relatively easy way of making a closer relationship pay is by improving the clarity and quality of the presentation of monitoring data to the regulator. Clear and effective presentation can help to maximise OMA scores, which is an instant benefit.
When choosing a supplier, a further factor in receiving good value for money is to ensure that stack testers have a good understanding of the specific industrial processes being monitored, as well as the methods being used. This is something that can be assessed at the pre-tender stage before a supplier is selected.MCERTS accredited
Quality is something that should be assured by choosing MCERTS accredited suppliers but auditing them in addition is always wise to ensure the company lives up to its claims. Again, this is a further way of boosting OMA scores.
For the stack monitoring businesses, another way of delivering better value is through offering additional related services cost-effectively and efficiently. For example, a good stack monitoring company may have the capability to offer a wide range of monitoring services required by IPPC, such as ambient air, noise, vibration and odour assessments as well as waste water and solids analysis.
This, in addition to offering stack emissions testing, would enable it to be a 'one-stop shop' and pass on welcome cost savings to its customers. In conclusion, there are a number of other factors to bear in mind in order to get the best value for money from a testing organisation. MCERTS is extremely welcome in that it provides a recognised seal of approval in an industry previously renowned for great variation in the quality of service and reliability of data, but it is not the be all and end all of choosing a supplier.
The best advice is to choose wisely in the first place - bearing in mind the issues raised in this article - and to form a useful working relationship. This should give you confidence that the chosen company offers the highest quality service and the best value for money.