Canadian Consulting Engineer

Industry will have its hands full to meet federal air emission reductions

May 7, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The federal government's plans to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have met with derision and doubt among e...

The federal government’s plans to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have met with derision and doubt among environmental critics.
Nonetheless, as the Environment Ministry argues in a question and answer section of its website, there was no way the government could comply with Canada’s previous government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol, “We cannot do in eight months what would have taken 15 years to complete,” says the website.
The government’s new plan, “Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution,” was announced by Environment Minister John Baird on April 26.
The plan targets Canada’s industrial sector, stating that it wants this sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production by about 33% between now and 2020. The absolute reduction the government is aiming for from the industry sector is 150 megatonnes by 2020.
The government also wants fixed emission caps of 55% between now and 2006 on various air contaminants including nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, VOCs, particulate matter, and caps on mercury emissions from certain sectors and benzene.
The sectors targeted are:
? electricity by combustion
? oil and gas
? forest products
? smelting and refining
? iron and steel
? cement, lime and chemicals production
? some mining sectors.
The government’s strategy of using “intensity targets,” means that industries will be expected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions according to units produced. Critics say that reporting will be a problem and unreliable, since it could be extremely difficult to make the necessary calculations. In the Toronto Star, an article on May 5, entitled “How, exactly, will they do it?” by Peter Gorrie, spelled out some of the challenges ahead.
“The difficulty with emissions factors,” he continues, “is the huge number of possible combinations of fuel types and combustion systems. That would create complexity enough if each industrial facility operated just one or two processes, but most us many types of fuel in a wide variety of combustion systems, each requiring a different set of calculators…
“Leaks from pipes and equipment can mess up the numbers, and on top of that … calculating a plant’s output can be difficult.
Gorrie also said that it will be even worse if companies must report separately to provincial governments that have their own emission reduction targets, as does Alberta.
The government says it expects industries to meet its emissions reduction target by investing in new equipment and technology. Companies who have already acted and reduced their greenhouse gas emissions between 1992 and 2006 will get a one-time credit.
The silver lining for consulting engineering companies is that if the plan becomes law, industrial companies will call on them to help them comply with the rules, whether it’s by installing new technologies, or simply helping them with the calculations.


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