Opacity and Complying With Industrial Environmental Regulations

industrial stack with smoke coming out

In this post, Ivan Sretenovic, Director of Operations and Sales for ProcessBarron Canada, discusses opacity regulations and compliance in the US and Canada. 

Every plant is under pressure to manage emissions, and opacity at the stack is one of the key ways this is measured. Opacity is the clarity of flue gas passing through your stack, and it assesses the concentration of particulates in your flue gas stream. It’s expressed as a percentage, so 100% opacity is dirty and laden with particulates, while a low percentage shows the stream is relatively clear. Opacity generally doesn’t measure acid gases (if the flue gas temperature is above the dew point) and other pollutants, but it’s important because it provides an ongoing compliance record relative to particulate limits outlined in your air permit. 

In this post, I will discuss how regulations affect your facility and strategies for maintaining compliance.

Measuring Opacity

To measure particulate emissions, a qualified testing company collects gas samples from specified test port locations at the stack. This is usually done annually. Opacity is a proxy for particulate emissions that can be measured continually. Results from gas samples from the stack and opacity measures are submitted to the EPA to provide a comprehensive picture of emissions at the facility. 

Regulations for Air Pollution Activities in the US vs. Canada

U.S. Federal opacity standards are determined by the EPA, but implementation varies by industry and jurisdiction. These and other applicable standards are translated into facility-by-facility limits in your operating permit that can vary based on industry, equipment, and how old the facility is. Upgrades like a new boiler or other equipment can trigger more stringent limits for your facility.   

Some facilities are required to meet opacity standards averaged over a set time period. This is called a rolling average.  For example, a facility can have a 10% opacity limit on a 15-minute rolling average basis. This creates an opportunity for facilities to optimize rapper firing on their ESP to minimize opacity spikes and maintain compliance. 

Emissions in Canada are regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Canadian regulations are similar to the US, but they can be more lenient for some industries. For example, oil and gas emissions standards are less stringent than in the US, whereas pulp & paper standards are almost identical. 

Looking for a maintenance partner that understands your market? Find out more about ProcessBarron Canada!

Efficient Particulate Collection

Whether your facility is running a cyclone dust collector, a baghouse, or an electrostatic precipitator to collect particulates, the efficiency of your dust collection system has a tremendous impact on your ability to maintain compliance. Maintaining a day-to-day inspection plan along with expert maintenance during your planned outage is the surest way to keep your dust collection equipment operating at peak efficiency to maintain compliance.    

And while your air handling system doesn’t directly affect particulate emissions, an inefficient system can cause burps that impact your rolling opacity average. A fan efficiency audit can ensure your air handling system is optimized for your current needs. 

Gain Clarity on Opacity

If you have concerns about opacity, contact us today to understand your opportunity to improve efficiency to meet particulate regulations in the US or Canada. 

Contact a ProcessBarron opacity expert today!