What is biomass?
Biomass is considered a sustainable, low carbon fuel. Typically, biomass is plant matter, such as trees, wood chips and crops, but can also include plant and animal matter (chicken litter for example) which are converted into fibres or other chemicals like biofuels. These materials are then used to fuel industrial biomass boiler and combined heat and power (CHP) systems, as well as residential heating and hot water systems.
Biomass combustion is considered to be ‘carbon neutral’ as the carbon dioxide emitted when the fuel is used is offset by the carbon dioxide absorbed from the air by the material while it was growing.
Air Quality and Biomass
As with all combustion appliances, we need to manage emissions from biomass boilers and combined heat and power (CHP) systems to ensure there are no significant negative impacts on Fife’s air quality.
In Fife, the two main air pollutants of concern are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particles (PM10).
Regulation of Biomass Boilers
Biomass boilers are regulated in different ways depending on their size and fuel type.
Fife Council becomes the regulatory authority when a biomass boiler or stove falls under the Clean Air Act 1993. In this situation, boilers or stoves which are located within a smoke control area must not emit black smoke and should be using an approved smokeless fuel or an exempt appliance.
The Act also gives Fife Council powers regarding the control of emissions from large domestic and industrial boilers. Here, equipment, known as arrestment plant, may need to be installed to control dust emissions.
Where a furnace (including biomass boilers) burns a certain fuel at a certain rate – for example, pulverised fuel ash or solid fuel used at a rate of 45.4kg per hour or more; or liquid or gas fuel used at a rate of 366.4kW or more - Fife Council needs to approve the chimney height for the furnace. It is an offence to use a furnace if the chimney height has not been given the appropriate approval.
In certain circumstances, the Scottish Environment Protect Agency (SEPA) will be the regulatory authority. This generally covers larger, more complex industrial installations which require the appropriate Pollution Prevention and Control permits.
The Planning Process
Certain biomass installations will require planning permission. This includes when a biomass boiler:
- is part of a much larger new development;
- is being installed in an existing development, or
- is located within or adjacent to an Air Quality Management Area.
Find out more about Air Quality Management Areas.
As part of the planning process an Air Quality Impact Assessment may be required. The Environmental Protection UK guidance document ‘Biomass and Air Quality Information for Developers’ details the type of biomass equipment that will need an assessment. Our guidance leaflet ‘Fife Air Quality Development Guidelines’ outlines the type of information that should be included in such an assessment.
Providing information about your biomass proposal
You may need to provide us with details about your proposed biomass system, either as part of a planning application or if your installation falls under the Clean Air Act. If this applies to you, you should complete the biomass information form.
Here you will need to include technical details about the biomass boiler, including:
- the type of fuel to be used;
- how and where the fuel will be stored;
- fuel delivery arrangements;
- emission concentrations, and
- stack/chimney height and width.
Once completed, send the form to the Land & Air Quality Team.
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