Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions and Control

From the Archive—In case you missed's a look back at the November 2014 issue of EM, which included a discussion of how some entities are addressing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and control.

by Mingming Lu

It is well known that some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to ground-level ozone formation, which results in ozone exceedance in many metropolitan areas around the world, while others are classified as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and linked to adverse health effects both indoors and outdoors. This issue of EM focuses on VOC emissions and control, with four articles that discuss various emissions and control policies, as well as the current status of leak detection and repair (LDAR) compliance in the United States and China. A significant portion of VOC control lies in LDAR programs. Understanding LDAR applicability and the associated compliance requirements involves a combination of process experts, environmental experts, and sound legal advice.

The first article by Inaas Darrat provides an overview of the LDAR program in the United States. Its requirements expended from petroleum refineries to the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and potentially natural gas processing plants. The author identifies potential issues in the LDAR program in order to facilitate proper future implementation.

In contrast to the relatively mature LDAR program in the United States, the LDAR program in China is new and upcoming. The regional haze and other air quality problems experienced in many major metropolitan areas in China have been frequently in the news since 2013. As a result, the Chinese people are very much aware of and deeply concerned with the worsening air quality and the Chinese government has started to invest heavily on air pollution control solutions.

In the second article by Peng Liang et al., the authors describe the newly formed VOC PollutionControl Workgroup in China. The workgroup comprises participants from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, various petroleum companies, and experts from overseas. The goal is to formulate VOC control and management strategies. It is expected that the petroleum industry in China will implement LDAR programs during China's Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011–2015).

In the third article, Jian Li et al. present an overview of a pilot LDAR program initiated at a petrochemical industrial park in Jiangxi Province (an inland province in southern China). Fugitive VOC emissions are controlled using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Method 21.

In the final article, Pamela Heckel describes another approach for VOC control: elimination at the source through pollution prevention and prevention through design. The author provides examples from various businesses that have switched products or practices to help lower their VOC emissions.