Industrial Emissions Directive and BAT Conclusions for the steel industry

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, for different process steps. During the years 2020-2023, the Directive will be revised, as part of the European Green Deal.

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

Industrial Emissions Directive in process of revision

The EU Commission on 12 December 2019 announced, in its growth strategy The European Green Deal, that the Industrial Emissions Directive shall be revised to make it fully consistent with climate, energy and circular Economy policies. The Commission will also consider the sectoral scope of the legislation, whether for example mining should be included. The revision will take place during the period 2020–2023.

Below, our general viewpoints appear in summarised form. These will then be supplemented with further details during the review process.

For the revision of the IED, an impact assessment was commenced in March 2020, with a short consultation process in which 155 responses were received. Jernkontoret also submitted its position.

In the spring of 2021, Jernkontoret submitted comments on the European Commission's two consultations on the revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), one open consultation and one more comprehensive consultation, the Targeted Stakeholder Survey.

Some key positions in respect of the revision process

  • Remain the scope of the IED, i.e. to regulate emissions to air, land and water from industrial processes. The Directive should not regulate areas already subject to regulation in other  legislation, for example REACH, EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and waste legislation. Should the scope be widened with further issues, as well as including more sectors, it risks overlapping other legislation and implies time-consuming work revising the Best Available Techniques Reference documents (BREFs). Moreover, already long permit processes may be even longer.
  • The IED already contributes, directly and indirectly, to the circular economy through the paragraphs on resource efficiency, waste minimisation, recirculation, etc, even if the term circular economy is not actually used in the legislation. IED may contribute to circular economy but is not the main tool, as IED is for processes in an installation but circular economy’s preconditions can be strengthened in the BREF-guidance.
  • The steel industry is part of the ETS. Article 9.1 of the IED states that, the permit shall not include an emission limit value for direct emission of green house gases. Instead, emission reductions are made at the lowest possible cost within the framework of the ETS. At this juncture, to set BAT-AELs for greenhouse gases would put at risk the prevailing system and, moreover, constitute double regulation. It is already fully possible to make assessments of new techniques for decarbonization within the framework of the BREF in the same way as other techniques are assessed in the Sevilla process (see description of the process below). The selection of fuel and the work on behalf of energy efficiency also contribute indirectly to reduced emissions.
  • The process of revision is going altogether too fast. At the rate at which the Commission is now working, there is a risk to the essential working procedures and the goal alignment process in which member states, NGOs and industries are actively engaged. Jernkontoret has the ambition to participate at all stages, up to the time that new legislation is in place, provisionally as early as 2023. We would like to see the Swedish Government Offices invite us to a reference group as soon as possible.
  • The revision of the BREF documents should not be started before a new legislation is adopted. Parallel with the revision of the Directive, the second BREF review cycle is discussed for BREF documents. It is essential that the work programme for next cycle is adopted after the new legislation is in place. Both new parameters and sectors can be included in the legislation and thereby change the content of the BREF.
  • BREF subject to review in the present work programme (the first), shall be adopted under present legislation. There are, in total, about 30 different BREFs, of which ten are relevant for the steel sector. The Iron and Steel (I&S) BREF was the first BREF published under IED. The Ferrous Metals Processing Industry BREF (FMP) final meeting is planned for 2020 while, for the two BREFs Surface Treatment of Metals and Plastics (STM) and Large Volume Inorganic Chemicals (LVIC), kick-off meetings are expected in 2021. Consequently, the BREFs that are reviewed in first cycle must get a permit based on the present legislation.

EUROFER Webinar – Future-proofing industrial emissions legislation (2021-09-08):

Estimated schedule for the revision and the new Directive

  • Legislative proposal to the EU Council of Ministers and Parliament: April 5, 2022. 
  • Negotiations in the EU Council of Ministers and Parliament: 2022-2023
  • New legislation: 2023

BREF Documents and BAT Conclusions

Within the framework of the IED legislation, so-called BREFs (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 Bureau in Seville, BREFs are produced within technical working groups with the participation of industry, member states and NGOs. 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. According to a preamble in IED, each BREF document is to be revised approximately every eight years, which has not yet occurred for any BREF document.

Read more:

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.

In addition to the BREF for iron and steel production and supplemental BAT Conclusions, the steel industry must comply with up to ten other BREFs of which are vertical (sectoral) in character and others horizontal (applies to all IED installations). The BREF for the processing of steel applies to most Swedish steel companies. Furthermore, only one company have large combustion plants, but for surface treatments and the production of different chemicals there are many BREFs. The horizontal BREFs on cooling, energy efficiency and measuring are also important to monitor.

Implemented BAT Conclusions:

Two systems that Swedish companies must deal with

To make the implementation of the IED in Sweden as simple as possible, and guarantee that all Sweden’s 1 300 plants, in the longer term, comply with the BAT-AELs in BAT Conclusions, these values were introduced as general binding rules. This means that companies now have two separate systems to deal with:

  1. The Swedish permit procedure in court draws up conditions that are always applicable, both under normal and other than normal 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. General binding rules include general requirements in a BATC and the upper end of the values in BAT-AEL range. 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. If a 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 when the plant is up and running, i.e. the BAT Conclusions mainly constitute a check that the techniques are working as they should.

In the longer term, one must look at the balance between the requirements in IED (EU law) and what shall be regulated in court. What is already regulated in BATC must not be part of the permit set in court to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden and create a level playing field with European steel companies.


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

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

BAT: Best Available Technique. 

BREF: BAT-REFerence 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 associated emission levels (BAT-AELs) for different activities under IED. Translated into all the EU languages.