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EPA's boiler law has March 2014 deadline for action

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The compliance deadline for the federal government's new rules on boilers is next spring, on March 21.

The new rule may affect not just manufacturers, but also hospitals, academic institutions and, potentially, school districts.

Here's a look on the new regulation.

On Feb. 1 this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a final, revised regulation known as the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Area Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers. The standard went into effect the same day.

Unofficially known as the Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Standard, this regulation applies to all oil-, coal- or biomass-fired boilers or fuel-fired process heaters and to gas-fired boilers and fuel-fired process heaters above a specific size that will use oil, coal or biomass fuels as an alternative fuel for more than 48-hours per year. Thus, dual-fuel capable boilers and fuel-fired process heaters are subject to the requirements of the regulation.

The EPA determined that certain commercial, institutional and industrial boilers and fuel-fired process heaters with a rated burner heat input larger than 10 million British Thermal Units can emit excessive amounts of certain hazardous air pollutants if not operated properly. The requirements of the new standard are intended to minimize this pollution.

Among the ways the new Boiler MACT Standard achieves its intent is by requiring owners of these boilers to:

• Conduct a one-time energy assessment.

• Develop and implement an energy management program.

• Conduct periodic boiler tuneups.

In addition, certain boilers also are subject to emission testing (mercury, carbon monoxide and, in some cases, other air pollutants.)

If your facility has an energy management system that meets the minimum requirements of ISO 50001, then some of these requirements are waived or modified. (ISO 50001 is the new global energy management standard that was adopted in 2011.)

Note that only qualified energy assessors may perform energy assessments. Because there is no certification for this, make certain that you know the qualifications of the assessor(s) you are considering and that the instrumentation they plan to use is appropriate to perform an energy assessment.

The EPA requires operators of boilers and process heaters to assess not just each boiler/heater, but also all downstream systems that use the steam and/or heat generated by each boiler. If your boiler or process heater has an annual heat input of:

• Less than 0.3 trillion Btu/year, then you must assess at least 50 percent of the corresponding energy end-use.

• Between 0.3 trillion and 1.0 trillion Btu/year, then you must assess at least 33 percent.

• More than 1.0 trillion Btu/year, then you must assess at least 20 percent.

If your boiler/process heater also generates electricity as part of a combined heat and power system, then in addition to the thermal assessment requirements stated above, end-use systems receiving 30 percent or more of the electricity from the combined heat and power electrical generation system also must be assessed.

This includes, for example, lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, compressed air and process systems powered from the combined heat and power systems.

EPA reporting requirements and other deadlines defined in the regulations also apply.

This new regulation is complex. A company or organization may want to seek the help of qualified professional expertise to determine if the regulation applies. If it does, then that expertise will be critical to meeting the regulation's requirements by the March 21 deadline.

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