Power stations’ share of sulphur dioxide emissions increases

A new report has revealed that the proportion of S02 released into the atmosphere by the European electricity sector is increasing, whilst other industries are cutting their emissions.

The Worst and the Best: Atmospheric emissions from large point sources in Europe, published by the Swedish NGO Secretariat for Acid Rain, shows that the power sector has increased its share of all land-based point-source SO2 emissions from 39% in 1994 to 55% in 1998, the last year for which emissions figures are available.

The survey ranking Europe’s top 100 SO2 emitters shows that power stations constitute 81 of the 100, with coal-fired generating stations, which lack emissions controls, accounting for 79 of these. Oil refineries were the next biggest category of SO2 emitter, occupying eight of the top 100 places.

The top 100 emitters accounted for 64% of the 3000 point sources in all European countries in the current survey, which is a large increase from the 40% which they represented in an equivalent 1994 survey by the same NGO. Overall though, SO2 emissions were down across Europe according to the report: in the EU this is due to environmental controls such as 1998’s Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD), encouraging the shutdown of old-style, large polluters and the installation of cleaner ones: In Eastern Europe the decrease has occurred because of economic change, changes in fuel mix and new emissions controls, the report says. It is predicted that power stations will furthermore increase their share of SO2 emissions over the next decade, however, because many are installations built before 1987 and will not be subject to LCPD’s stricter controls until at least 2008.

Perhaps surprisingly, the single biggest SO2 polluter in Europe was the UK with 19 of the 100 entries. This was followed by Poland with 16, Spain with 11 and Italy with 10. Eastern bloc polluters, such as Russia and the Ukraine, were nowhere to be seen. The largest single SO2 emitter in Europe, however is Maritsa power station in Bulgaria, emitting 316,000 tonnes per year, followed by its sister plant, Maritsa North, emitting 291,000.

Overall, the top five SO2 point sources, which also include Puentes As Pontes power station in Spain, Belchatow in Poland and Nicola in Yugoslavia, account for 40% of all European emissions. Drax was the UK’s biggest SO2 polluter, occupying seventh place.

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