Though the Drax power station has been fueled  with more and more biomass it still ranks highly on the  list of carbon dioxide emitters. Photo: Tim Green/ BY

Dirty dozen – biggest polluters

Polish lignite plant Belchatow and British coal plant Drax continue to dominate Europe’s most polluting point sources in 2015.

According to the recently updated European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), the Polish state-owned Belchatow lignite plant remains Europe’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter. With an electricity output of 5,400 megawatts (MW), Belchatow is the largest thermal power station in Europe, and in 2015 it emitted 37 million tonnes of CO2. It was followed by three German lignite plants, Neurath (32.4 Mt), Niederaussem (27.2 Mt) and Jänchwalde (23.7 Mt). Of the twelve worst CO2 polluters, six are German lignite plants.

The Drax power station in Yorkshire, United Kingdom – with an electricity output of nearly 4,000 MW – was responsible for emissions of 23.4 Mt CO2. It has traditionally been powered by hard coal, but over the last few years it has also been burning more and more biomass, imported primarily from the United States. In 2015 the burning of wood pellets contributed about half of the electricity generated by Drax.

All in all, the dozen dirtiest point sources emitted a staggering 238 million tonnes of CO2, more than five times the total national emissions from Sweden.

At the top of the list of the worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) polluters, we find once again Belchatow, closely followed by Drax. Each of these plants emitted more than 30,000 tonnes of NOx in 2015.

The list of the worst sulphur polluters is dominated by lignite plants in eastern Europe, with Serbian plants occupying four of the five top places. Belchatow and Drax can also be found in this list. With emissions of 75,000 tonnes of SO2, Belchatow is by far the biggest sulphur polluter in the European Union, followed by Novaky in Slovakia (47,000 tonnes) and Maritsa 2 in Bulgaria (40,000 tonnes).

Implementation of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, which includes emission standards for traditional air pollutants (SO2, NOx, dust) from existing large combustion plants, has resulted in a gradual lowering of these emissions over time and will continue to do so over the next few years. The recent adoption of a new best available techniques (BAT) reference document for large combustion plants will help speed up this process.

The E-PRTR is a service managed by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA). The online register contains information on emissions of pollutants released into the air, water, land and wastewater by industrial facilities throughout Europe (33 countries: EU28, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia) and includes annual data for 91 substances released from some 35,000 facilities. It also provides maps of some non-industrial sources of emissions.

Christer Ågren

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register can be found at:
Note: For lists from 2009–2014 see AN2/2011, AN2/2012, AN2/2013, AN2/2014, AN3/16



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