Chemical sector holds the line on most air emissions, forecasts modest reductions over the next five years
With emissions of harmful substances to water virtually eliminated, member companies of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association are concentrating their efforts on continued reduction of air emissions, including greenhouse gases (GHG). Emissions to air, excluding carbon dioxide (CO2) now account for 99% of all national emissions, as indicated by figures in the CCPA's 13th annual Reducing Emissions report.
Although CCPA current member facilities recorded a slight increase of 2,200 tonnes in air emissions between 2003 and 2004, the report, released January 16, points out that there has been a 63% decrease in these emissions from all members since 1992.
Total emissions of substances other than CO2 by current members were 5% higher in 2004 than in 2003. Since 1992, however, emissions by all CCPA members have dropped from 261,100 tonnes in 1992 to 47,000 tonnes in 2004, a decline of 214,200 tonnes, or 82%.
The increases are attributed in part to better estimation practices. Overall emissions data have been more significantly affected, however, by changes in CCPA membership in recent years, notes the report. Between 2000 and 2004, three large companies left the CCPA and two companies sold large facilities to non-association members. During the same period, three new plants began operation and one large company joined the CCPA, offsetting the departures to some degree.
Accordingly, the report reflects emissions reporting by 58 companies operating a total of 137 facilities in 2004, compared with 61 companies and 138 facilities in 2003. Emissions to all media from facilities that reported in 2003 but not in 2004 accounted for 14,500 tonnes, says the report.
CCPA members' continuing efforts to reduce emissions have been made in the context of still-rising production: current members' chemical production increased by 7% between 2003 and 2004. At the same time, emissions per unit of product have continued to decline, having dropped by as much as 86% since 1992. The decrease is expected to reach 87% by 2009.
Emissions to air, land and water in 2004 by current member companies were highest in Ontario, with 18,200 tonnes; this reflected a 2% decrease since 2003 and a total reduction of 78% by all members since 1993. Quebec's total, of 11,700 tonnes, was almost unchanged from the previous year, for a 93% reduction by all members since 1992.
Alberta recorded a 19% increase in 2004 from 2003, for a total of 14,800 tonnes. Emissions from all members have declined 10% since 1992, although releases to water have fallen by 81% from 25 tonnes in 1992.
Current members in British Columbia also reported an increase of 497 tonnes from 2003, for a total of 2,100 tonnes. Emissions by all members have decreased by 46% since 1992.
Excluding CO2, three large-volume substances account for 76% of total 2004 air emissions: sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide (SOX, NOX and CO). The main sources of these emissions are certain chemical processes and burning of fossil fuels for energy. The CCPA reports a drop of 37% (20,800 tonnes) in emissions of these three compounds since 1992.
The chemical industry remains a minor contributor to Canada's total air emissions, excluding CO2. Based on Environment Canada's 2000 inventory of criteria air contaminants, emissions from chemical producers' operations accounted for only 0.2% of the 24.1 million tonnes reported.
Releases of known and probable carcinogens to all media by current CCPA members remained about the same in 2004 as in 2003, for a total reduction of 84% by all members since 1992.
The report further notes an overall reduction from 2003 levels of 500 tonnes, or 2% in emissions of NOX and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by current members. Emissions of these compounds by all members have fallen by 60% since 1992.
Taken separately, NOX emissions remained about the same during the reporting period for current members, who have reduced these emissions by 23% since 2000.
NOX emission figures take into account on-site power generation sources, in view of a growing trend by members to generate their own electricity as a way of improving energy efficiency and so reduce emissions.
Although NOX emissions from current members are expected to increase by about 6% from 2004 levels over the next five years in direct proportion to production growth, a decrease of 19% from 2000 levels is forecast. Emissions per unit of output are projected to continue declining, from 31% below 2000 levels in 2004 to 29% below 2000 levels by 2009.
VOC emissions to all media in 2004 from current member facilities were 12% below 2003 levels and have declined by 44% since 2000, the report continues. Virtually all VOC emissions in 2004 were to air.
Five-year projections by current members call for a 5% decrease in VOC emissions to all media by 2009, which will bring the total reduction since 2000 to 47%. VOC emissions to air by the chemical industry are expected to be 5,500 tonnes in 2005, well below the 25,000 tonnes estimated by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in the context of its NOX/VOC Management Plan.
The industry also achieved a reduction of 12 tonnes, or 2%, in ozone-depleting substances in 2004 from 2003 levels. This marks a total reduction of 58% since 1992, including a 99% drop in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and a 40% drop in hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), the replacement for CFCs.
CO2, which accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from current member facilities, remained about the same in 2004 as in 2003, on a CO2 equivalent basis; these emissions have risen 6% since 2000. The report notes that a growing number of CCPA members are incorporating cogeneration plants into their operations; CO2 emissions from these plants accounted for 17% of total CO2 emissions from member companies in 2004.
CO2 emissions by all members have decreased by 14% overall since 1992 and by 65% in terms of emissions per unit of product. This, says the report, reflects improvements in energy efficiency and changes in the energy intensity of members' operations.
Methane emissions from current member facilities increased by 38% (229 tonnes) in 2004 over 2003, while nitrous oxide emissions decreased by 21% (61 tonnes) during the same period. Assessing the industry's emissions of these greenhouse gases in terms of global warming potential, the report indicates that current member GHG emissions remained about the same from 2003 to 2004, having increased by 5% since 2000.
Major improvements in energy efficiency over the past 13 years have enabled the industry to substantially reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of output, and the report projects a continuing improvement of 1% per year in energy efficiency. While product output by current members has risen by more than 11% since 2000, total CO2 emissions per unit of product has declined by 16% during the same period.
Included in the report are figures on waste reduction as well. CCPA members reported a 1% increase in hazardous waste for 2004, with a decrease in routine hazardous waste offset by a small increase in non-routine hazardous waste (i.e. generated through one-time activities). Both routine and non-routine hazardous waste quantities are projected to decrease by 2009.