UNEP Minamata Convention – BAT/BEP requirements for coal?

Following the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Japan in September 2013, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) must now commence work on the guidelines for implementation of the Convention. For coal-fired plants, this means BAT/BEP (best available technique/best environmental practice) on new plants and an option of BAT/BEP, emission limit values, reduction targets or “suitable alternatives” for existing plants. However, BAT/BEP for mercury from coal combustion remains a challenge, varying with coal and plant characteristics, and there is, as yet, no clear definition of what BAT/BEP should be. And so UNEP has established its first Working Group on BAT/BEP with the aim of producing clear guidelines on this issue in time for the first COP following ratification of the convention, probably somewhere between 2 and 5 years from now.

Lesley Sloss of the CCC was the only independent advisor on coal issues invited to attend the first UNEP BAT/BEP Working Group in Ottawa, Canada, during the last week in February 2014. The Working Group comprised 31 experts representing individual countries or regions along with 8 observers and members of the UNEP Secretariat. The photograph below shows the group on a visit to the Ottawa Museum of Civilisation during some down time from the meeting.

The draft document on BAT/BEP for coal will not be available until August this year at the earliest, and even then is unlikely to be released for general public review. However, many of those involved in preparing the guidance will be present at the MEC meeting in Florida at the end of April 2014. A “Call for Case Studies” will be circulated within the next few weeks with the aim of collating examples of full-scale demonstrations of mercury control at different plants. These Case Studies will be peer-reviewed before being included as appendices to the BAT/BEP guidance document. Potential Case Studies and the establishment of a peer-review group to collate the best Case Studies will be discussed at the UNEP Coal Partnership Meeting which will take place in Florida in April as part of the MEC meeting. Attendance at MEC and the UNEP Coal Partnership meeting is open to anyone with relevant experience/interest but is limited by numbers and so early registration is strongly recommended. The full agenda for MEC is now available online