Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Boilers and furnaces: environmental authorisations or permits

Energy and steam generation environmental authorisations or permits

Energy can be generated on site using gas, oil or by-products and waste as fuel. This page covers the environmental authorisations and permits you may require from your environmental regulator or from your local council if you produce energy or steam on your site.

 

What you must do

Pollution Prevention and Control permit for generator, furnace or boiler

If you produce energy or steam on your site and you have a generator, furnace or boiler with a rated thermal input above the threshold levels, you will require a permit from your environmental regulator.

If you have a permit it will have conditions that control emissions from your boiler or furnace. Your permit may contain conditions for levels of noise, vibration, odour, dust and smoke emissions, and also on monitoring and reporting. You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit. See NetRegs information on PPC Permits.

PPC permit in Northern Ireland

You need a Part A pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit for appliances with a rated thermal input of 50 megawatts (MW) or more, burning fuels (including those that have passed the NIEA's end-of-waste test).

You need a Part C PPC permit for:

  • appliances with a rated thermal input of 20 to 50MW burning fuels, or
  • a combination of appliances which when added together, have a net rated thermal input exceeding 20 megawatts but less than a rated thermal input of 50 megawatts.

This includes those fuels that have passed the NIEA's end-of-waste test.

In Northern Ireland, Part A is regulated by the NIEA and Part C by your district council.

PPC permit in Scotland

You need a Part A pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit for:

  • appliances with a rated thermal input of 50 megawatts (MW) or more
  • appliances burning waste oil, recovered oil or fuel manufactured from waste.

You need a Part B PPC permit or registration for:

  • appliances put into operation after 20 December 2018, with a rated thermal input of 1 to 20 megawatts
  • appliances with a rated thermal input of 20 to 50MW
  • appliances burning waste excluded from the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) with a rated thermal input of 0.4 to 3MW.

For appliances with a rated thermal input of between 1 and 20 megawatts, put into operation before 20 December 2018, you will have to register them or obtain a PPC Part B permit for them by:

  • 1 Jan 2024 for appliances with a rated thermal input of between 5 and 20 megawatts
  • 1 Jan 2029 for appliances with a rated thermal input of between 1 and 5 megawatts

SEPA: Medium Combustion Plant

In Scotland, PPC Permits are regulated by SEPA.

Permits for burning waste

Most waste burning activities are covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). If you burn solid or liquid waste in your furnace or boiler you will usually require a IED-compliant Part A PPC permit. See the NetRegs guideline: Waste incineration

Permission to install a furnace - local council controls

Your district council or local authority must approve your plans and specifications before you can use a new furnace (except a domestic furnace) in a building, fixed boiler or industrial plant, or if you make changes to an existing furnace.

Talk to your local council about grit and dust arrestment if you do not have a PPC permit and your furnace is going to be used to burn:

  • pulverised fuel
  • any other solid matter at a rate of 45.4 kilograms or more an hour
  • liquid or gaseous matter at a rate equivalent to 366.4 kilowatts or more.

If you install a new furnace, it must be able to operate continuously without emitting smoke when burning the type of fuel it has been designed to use. Planning permission or a building warrant from your local council is not sufficient for you to construct a chimney or plant.

Find your local council

Burning of biomass

If you wish to install a combustion appliance that burns biomass (most commonly wood and including wood pellets), including from domestic wood burning stoves to bigger combined heat and power plants, you need to take a number of issues into consideration.

Contact your local council, to find out legal requirements enforced by the council:

  • You may need planning permission, even in the case of smaller, non-regulated activities, such as domestic wood burning.
  • All new wood heating systems have to comply with building regulations.
  • As part of the planning application process, you may be required to carry out an Air Quality Impact Assessent (AQIA).
  • Find out from your local council if your business is located within an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). There are restrictions on operating biomass plants within AQMAs and in such cases you should contact the NIEA or your local SEPA office.
  • Smoke and odours from a wood burner can generate complaints from local residents - therefore, the design should ensure emissions will not affect local properties.
  • Delivery of fuel may lead to increase vehicle movements, which can cause air quality, noise and nuisance problems.
  • Correct storage of wood fuel is important as it can affect the performance of the boiler.
  • The burning of waste material may require a permit or an exemption from your environmental regulator. See Burning waste controls, in this environmental topic, and the Waste incineration environmental topic.

Environmental Protection UK: Biomass and air quality guidance for developers (PDF, 858K)

Sulphur content of fuel limits

You must not use gas oils with a sulphur content higher than 0.1 per cent by weight.

You must not use heavy fuel oils with a sulphur content higher than 1 per cent by weight.

Chimney and emission requirements - local council controls

You must meet any chimney and emission requirements that your local council applies to your furnace or boiler. See the page in this guideline: Boilers and furnaces: chimney and emission limits.

Air Quality Management Areas - local council controls

If your business is located in an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) you may need to comply with a number of local legal requirements. See the page in this guide on Air Quality Management Areas and Smoke Control Areas.

Smoke Control Area restrictions - local council controls

If you are in a Smoke Control Area, the emission of any smoke at any time from a chimney is an offence, with only a few exceptions: you can only use authorised fuels or exempted furnaces or boilers. See the Air Quality Management Areas and Smoke Control Areas page in this guidance.

 

Further information

Environmental Protection UK: Air pollution sources

Environmental Protection UK: Biomass and air quality guidance

Defra: Air quality

Scottish Government: Pollutant information

Find your local council

Contact your environmental regulator

 

In this guideline

Causes and effects of air pollution

Business benefits of improving air quality

What you must do to prevent air pollution

Prevent dark smoke

Boilers and furnaces: environmental authorisations

Boilers and furnaces - chimney height requirements

Burning waste controls

Smoke control areas

Protecting neighbours from air pollution

Measuring and monitoring to reduce air pollution

Air pollution environmental legislation

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms