Emissions Directive and BAT Conclusions for the steel industy

The EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) regulates, among other things, emissions related to industrial activities. The Directive covers standards linked to Best Available Techniques (BAT), so called BAT Conclusions.

Flue gas cleaning plant. Photo: Stig-Göran Nilsson. Jernkontoret's picture collection. 

In December 2019, the European Commission announced The European Green Deal (link) and that a revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) was initiated to meet objectives of climate, energy and circular economy. The Commission also intends to review the sectors to be covered by the IED. At the present, Jernkontoret is working on updating the Swedish steel industry's positions on this issue, as well as updating the content on this page.

EU’s Emissions Directive

In December 2010 the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) came into force. The Directive regulates the standards that apply to airborne emissions as well as discharges to land and water relating to industrial operations. One significant change, compared with the former emissions directive for large industrial plants (IPPC), is that emission limit values that can be achieved through using the Best Available Techniques (BAT) become binding values introduced into the Swedish Industrial Emissions Ordinance.

BREF Documents and BAT Conclusions

Within the framework of the IED legislation, so-called BREF documents (BAT Reference Documents) are produced. These describe what are considered to be the Best Available Techniques at the different process stages. Under direction of the IPPC office in Seville, BREF documents are produced within technical working groups with the participation of industry, member states and relevant organisations. The work on a BREF often takes many years and results in a comprehensive document with detailed descriptions for all, or parts of, an industrial process. A BREF document shall be revised roughly every eighth year according to the IED.

The steel industry is the sector that first received BAT Conclusions for iron and steel production. The BAT Conclusions were published in March 2012. This meant that the steel producing companies, four years later i.e. in March 2016, would be in a position to comply with the emission limit values based on the Best Available Techniques and that are duly specified in the BAT Conclusions.
Read more: BAT Conclusions relating to iron and steel production  (eur-lex.europa.eu)

For a sector like the steel industry, however, four years is a very short time to manage to notify, produce and put into operation the techniques required to comply with the requirements. Investments in the steel industry are long-term in character and certain process plants can be utilised for as long as 30-60 years.

In addition to the BREF for iron and steel production and supplemental BAT Conclusions, the steel industry is affected by some ten or so other BREF documents, certain of which are vertical (sectoral) in character and others horizontal (applies to all IED plants). The BREF for the processing of steel is important for most steel companies. Furthermore, various companies are affected by the BREF concerning large combustion plants, surface treatments and the production of different chemicals. The horizontal BREF documents on cooling, energy efficiency and measuring are also important to monitor.

Two systems that Swedish companies must deal with

To make the implementation of the IED Directive in Sweden as simple as possible, and guarantee that all Sweden’s 1 100 plants, in the longer term, comply with the limit values of the BAT Conclusions, these values were introduced as an Ordinance. This means that manufacturing companies now have two separate systems to deal with:

  1. The Swedish permit procedure which draws up conditions that are always applicable, both under normal and abnormal operating conditions. The conditions are adapted for a specific plant at a specific location with differing preconditions. The permit procedure is a far-reaching and frequently slow process.

  2. The IED’s BAT Conclusions, the values of which are prepared for application in all plants, regardless of location. The BAT Conclusions stipulate which values apply when the Best Available Techniques (specification of technique or other equivalent one) are in place and function as they should, i.e. under normal operating conditions. Where the plant does not cope with these values, then it is reasonable to believe that either BAT is not in place or else the technique is not functioning as it should (abnormal operation). Controls are implemented in other countries by public authorities that come and survey when the plant is up and running, i.e. the BAT Conclusions mainly constitute a check on the techniques (technical processes) and should not be equated with Swedish conditions.

In the longer term, one must look at the balance between the EU standards and what shall be regulated in the Swedish operating permit/licence. The Swedish system should scrutinised in order not to pass on to Swedish industry an unnecessary regulatory burden in comparison with what European steel companies have to cope with.

The standards at Swedish plants become a combination of facility adapted conditions and the emission limit values of the BAT Conclusions (BAT-AEL).

For plants that can not comply with the BAT Conclusions in time there remain a number of different avenues open. It is possible to obtain an extension of time, to apply for an exemption or alternative values for e.g. handling sampling methods that are stipulated in the BAT Conclusions but not used in Sweden, or adopting alternative procedures for measurement frequency. In the case of a need for investments, an application may be made.

Status reports for land and water

According to the Swedish Industrial Emissions Ordinance, companies also need to produce a status report for discharges to land and water. The document is drawn up once and its purpose is to facilitate the assessment of any obligation to restore the area in the event of a possible discontinuation of operations. The status report covers the following components: 1. Pollutants occurring, 2. Present use of the area, 3. Available information on previous use, and 4. Land and groundwater measurements.


IPPC: Integrated Prevention and Pollution Control. The EU emissions directive for large industrial plants.

IED: Industry Emission Directive. The EU’s emissions directive from 2010.

BAT: Best Available Technique. 

BREF: BAT-REFerens document. Describes what is considered to be the best available techniques for a sector or part of a sector.

BAT-Conclusions (BATC): Chapter in BREF. Describes BAT and which binding emission limit values apply to a particular industrial sector or part of a production process. Translated into all the EU languages.

BAT-AEL: Best Available Technique ‒ Associated Emission Levels, the range of emission levels obtained under normal operating conditions using a best available technique.