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Kyoto Protocol: The next steps

ABB discusses mechanisms that can help companies not only comply — but also position themselves to maximise any additional benefits to be gained from the implementation of energy efficient technologies.

The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the Australian government brought with it a lot of public acclaim and attention. But what does it mean now for Australian businesses?

One of the impacts noted when European member nations ratified the Kyoto Protocol was that companies in a variety of industries were required to track emissions in real time. This includes managing emissions allowances and credits across the total enterprise, optimising environmental controls, and producing compliance reports in accordance with international, national and local regulatory bodies.

ABB Australia spoke with Henning von Hoersten, process analytics manager at ABB, about monitoring and control technologies that can help companies adapt and comply with regulatory requirements. Henning acquired extensive knowledge on the subject when he coordinated clean development mechanism applications for ABB’s sales and analytics manufacturing facility in Europe.

Firstly Henning, what are Australia’s Kyoto obligations?

As we all know the Kyoto Protocol was devised as a way of establishing global emissions targets aimed at restricting the impact of global warming. One of the established mechanisms is to set long term emissions targets for all major industrialised countries.

For Australians, this means aiming to limit levels of greenhouse active gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) to below 108 percent of levels in 1990 in the five years from 2008 to 2012.

The 8 percent increase, rather than a decrease is due to Australia falling within Article 4 of the Protocol which states that countries “highly dependent on income generated from the (use of) fossil fuels,” are entitled to considerations.

Henning, can you outline the current emissions reduction legislation requirements?

At the moment the Australian government is yet to put in place any new legislation or major proposals towards emission reduction. However, one scheme that is currently under development is a national carbon trading scheme, placing caps on the amount of greenhouse active gases that businesses can emit. If they decrease their emissions they may sell their attained credits to those businesses that require increased allowances.

What about emissions reporting requirements and are there any known changes as a result of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (the Act)?

As mentioned previously, no firm decisions have been taken yet. Currently, the National Pollutant Inventory allows businesses to report emissions based on simplistic methods such as mass balance, which brings with it many questions about accuracy and verification.

With an ethos of ‘only what is measured can be improved’, ABB believes a more socially responsible and sustainable method of reporting emissions is by implementing a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS), such as ABB’s complete ACX analyser system. This system allows for the continuous

evaluation of the concentration of up to six sample components with a selection of communication interfaces in order to record the data required for accurate reporting to the appropriate government bodies.

Recently, the government in an effort to help businesses understand their reporting obligations and regulations published the 2008 National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Guidelines (NGER) and NGER (Measurement) Technical Guidelines. These guidelines cover important concepts of the Act and help explain the legislative requirements. So whilst the final carbon trading scheme is still to be decided, the guidelines offer some surety on the type of emissions monitoring system that must be operational to comply with specific reporting requirements. The specific components of the CEMS mentioned are founded on Australian and internationally recognised standards or methods, which ABB’s analysers are compliant with.

ABB’s ACX system sounds like a very comprehensive monitoring system, is it suitable for all plants?

For smaller applications single analysers are available. As an example, ABB has the EasyLine series, ranging up to the more sophisticated Advance Optima series with each analyser configurable for specific needs.

The analysers are available with integrated calibration cells reducing the consumption of test gases for a cost saving of greater than A$10,000 per year. These emissions monitoring systems can also assist companies in possibly attaining pre-implementation credits due to the reliability and accuracy of their measurements, and their ability to continuously provide data that can easily be recorded and reported.

You have spent considerable time in Europe. Are there any international mechanisms that can help countries and companies meet their goals?

External to the Australian reduction schemes are three mechanisms which have been defined and integrated into the Protocol to assist countries in reaching their targets: Carbon Emissions Trading (CET), Joint Implementation (JI) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). With the recent growth in the economy, Australia is unlikely to emit less than the allocated level therefore global CET is likely to be irrelevant. Similarly JI projects may play a minor role due to the small cost benefits associated with investing in projects in other developed countries.

This leaves the involvement in CDM projects overseas in less-developed countries which presents opportunities estimated to be worth billions of dollars for businesses, in addition to assisting in the reduction of global emissions.

As Australian companies are involved with global projects, could they benefit from this mechanism, and can you explain how CDM works?

Each carbon credit that can be gained via participation in CDM projects is equivalent to a one unit reduction of (CO2). The two other predominant greenhouse gases mentioned in the Protocol are CH4 and N2O and their global warming potentials are greater in comparison to CO2.

While CO2 and CH4 are the most prevalent gases in our atmosphere, it can be seen that the global warming potential of N2O is almost 13 times that of methane and therefore N2O abatement CDM projects present a large potential for acquisition of carbon credits.

Are there any known obstacles to companies redeeming their carbon credits?

Yes, in order to gain carbon credits from CDM projects, a strict validation process must be completed as outlined in the applicable ‘Approved Methodologies’ written by the CDM Executive Board. Generally to enable CDM evaluation and acceptance, measurements are required during a complete campaign — this includes before any project implementation to properly characterize the baseline emissions factor. This is to ensure results are real, measurable and long-term.

As an example, ABB’s CEMS was critical to the recent success of an N2O abatement project for a nitric acid plant based in Colombia. The overall project consists of the installation of a secondary catalyst to abate N2O formed inside the reactor. Once work is completed the waste N2O will be converted into N2 and O2, and the total amount of green house gas emission reductions achieved by the project is estimated to be 854,350 tonnes CO2 equivalents (122,050 annually) during the CDM renewable seven year crediting period. If we used the first reference point (Factbox 1) here in Australia of A$19 for the cost of one ton of CO2, this project is worth more than A$16 million in redeemable carbon credits.

With such strict validation requirements, engineers must need to be very mindful of regulations and equipment standards?

Fortunately, ABB has a vast and varied range of experience in successfully credited N2O abatement projects in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Israel, to name but a few. These are projects where ABB analysers have been utilised to ensure an accurate measurement of N2O, in accordance with UNFCCC Approved Methodologies AM0028 and AM0034.

The methodologies are based on EN14181, a European environmental monitoring standard that many consider to be one of the most stringent. ABB was the first to have its analysers certified in accordance with the standard, remaining at the forefront of the competition thanks largely to its many years of experience in the field of process analytics. In addition, CO2, CH4 and other greenhouse gases can be monitored by ABB analysers with the same operational reliability and accuracy.

With respect to CEMS standards in Australia, the requirements have been based around Standards Australia, the International Organisation for Standardisation and United States Environmental Protection Agency – all of which ABB’s analysers are compliant with.

In conclusion, can you provide any advice on how businesses can best position themselves to take advantage of the expected changes?

Whilst it appears that the effect on businesses from the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is yet to be fully ascertained, considering the benefit of pre-implementation carbon credits from the installation of CEMS and analysers, businesses will be able to realise the full benefit once a carbon trading system is instigated.

Whatever Australian emissions monitoring regulations are put into place in the near future, with our expansive knowledge and experience in CDM projects and CEMS installations worldwide, ABB is well equipped to support businesses. We can provide the right products, technical expertise and assist businesses across all industries in reducing and measuring greenhouse gases to ensure a more sustainable future.

Henning von Hoersten

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

Manager Process Analytics

Mobile: 0447 617 270

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