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Ozone Pollution Standards Amended to Strengthen VOC Control

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On 17 January, the EPA preannounced the draft revision of Volatile Organic Air Pollutants Control and Emission Standards (揮發性有機物空氣污染管制及排放標準) in an attempt to cut down the petrochemical industry’s emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and harmful air pollutants. It includes regulations for lowering emissions from the petrochemical industry’s exhaust gas combustion towers, strengthening controls on regular maintenance for production processes, and tightening controls for storage tanks, transporting facilities, tanker truck loading, and spare parts for relevant equipment. The aim is to safeguard public health by cutting down the daily maximum eight-hour ozone concentration.

VOCs are ozone precursors, so it is necessary to enhance controls on the petrochemical industry, a major VOC emitter, in order to continue improving Taiwan’s daily maximum eight-hour ozone concentration. The EPA noted that it has since 2021 begun banning emissions of exhaust gas from combustion towers, a common practice during petrochemical production. Also, exhaust gas can be utilized as fuels after being recycled, contributing to emission reduction. So far emissions of exhaust gas from combustion towers have been lowered by 85%.

The EPA pointed out that currently the petrochemical industry uses combustion towers only when necessary, such as during the occurrence of abnormal incidents concerning industrial safety, regular maintenance, car parking, etc. However, a large amount of exhaust gas, when piped to combustion towers for disposal within a very short period of time, often ends up being released directly into the atmosphere because of insufficient disposal time. And it frequently leads to poor air quality with too much ozone during the high-ozone season, thus presenting the need to reduce combustion towers’ emissions in time of regular maintenance.

Not only so, there are still certain petrochemical enterprises that utilize combustion towers long-term. The amount of exhaust gas emissions accumulated annually is too much to be overlooked despite the smaller emissions on a daily basis. The EPA hopes to enhance controls on combustion towers via the amendment, mandating enterprises to cut down time of usage during regular maintenance by adjusting or optimizing operations as well as improving the operation that causes emissions of small amount of exhaust gas over a long period. Enterprises are also asked to voluntarily make public announcements on usage of combustion towers so that the public can know when they are utilized in real time.

Another goal is to tighten controls on pollutions during the regular maintenance of petrochemical production in order to prevent air pollutants from entering and contaminating the environments in time of petrochemical factories’ regular maintenance or when equipment is being fixed. Therefore, the revisions state that leakage-proof installation is to be opened only after concentration of air pollutants inside lowers. During the times when air quality deterioration is forecast to reach medium or serious levels, operators are not to open leakage-proof installations or storage tanks even during cleaning. In addition, information of regular maintenance has to be made public ahead of time.

It is worth noting that the revision has included the EPA’s continual efforts on reduction of health risks within the petrochemical industrial parks, evaluating the industry’s current development of the latest control technologies and their feasibilities. The other focus is to tighten controls on major petrochemical productions with the potential to emit harmful air pollutants, such as storage tanks, transporting facilities, tanker truck loading, spare parts for equipment, and other pollution sources.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, January 2023
Ministry of Environment