Europe’s biggest polluters

Cooling towers of Drax power station, Europe’s biggest point source if nitrogen oxides. Photo: Les Haines/ by

Twelve of Europe’s most polluting point sources in 2012 were found in two countries: Germany and the UK. 

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) was recently updated with figures for emissions from industrial installations in 2012.

The state-owned Bełchatów lignite plant in Poland remained Europe’s biggest carbon dioxide (CO2) polluter. It was followed by three German lignite plants. Neurath increased CO2 emissions by more than 50 per cent, since two new blocks that were put into full service in July 2012 increased capacity by 2100 MW. Drax in the United Kingdom, which occupies fifth place, is unlike the others mainly powered by hard coal. The CO2 emissions from these five plants have all increased in recent years. Fuel-switching from gas to coal is probably a more likely explanation for this than economic recovery after the crisis.

At the top of the list of the worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) polluters, we find once again Drax and Bełchatów. While Bełchatów has been the worst NOx polluter for several years, this year it was beaten by Drax, because of increasing emissions from the British plant. 

Adaption to the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and the spread of desulphurisation techniques in the eastern parts of the European Union are reflected to some extent in the list of sulphur (SO2) polluters. At Maritsa 2 in Bulgaria, emissions were reduced by 40 per cent. Four Serbian lignite plants, not covered by the IED, are also found on the list. The fact that several plants in Eastern Europe have managed to reduce their sulphur emissions might be the reason why British power plants are present on the list again. However one of them, Didcot A, will not appear in future lists, since it was shut down in 2013. 

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 atmosphere, hydrosphere and into the soil by industrial facilities throughout Europe (32 countries: EU27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia) and includes annual data for 91 substances released from nearly 30,000 facilities. The first data set is from 2007 and it has now been updated for the fifth time.

Kajsa Lindqvist

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register can be found at: 

(For lists from 2009–2011 see AN2/11, AN2/12, AN2/13.)

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