Technical Article

Industrial Emissions From a Control Perspective

March 12, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

This article discusses industrial emissions, looks at the control engineer's role in monitoring emissions levels, and introduces the governing bodies that set forth environmental regulations.

In an industrial environment, emissions grow in parallel with industrial growth. Advanced technologies have helped improve the manufacturing process by increasing production with lower costs and more streamlined operations. 

Improved manufacturing processes have also reduced industrial emissions. It also enables manufacturers to fulfill compliance requirements set by domestic and international bodies. If manufacturers fail in completing compliance requirements, they are penalized by these bodies. Chronic non-compliance can lead to a halt in the manufacturing process until the manufacturer takes sufficient measures to reduce and prevent these emissions.


industrial emissions

Figure 1. Industrial emissions must follow standards put in place by outside governing bodies.


As industrial emissions grow, many manufacturers have created their own environment, health, and safety (EHS) department. The EHS department is responsible for keeping industrial processes safe for the environment by working closely with all factory departments such as maintenance and production to develop protocols and implement plans. 


What is the Control Engineer’s Role in Emissions?

With the EHS department’s processes in hand, control engineers can make more informed decisions. While the responsibility of industrial emissions does not lie solely with the control engineer, the systems they create have the ability to make or break emissions levels.

Let’s look at what these roles are and how they affect overall emissions.


Overall Proper Maintenance 

Industrial emissions are inevitable — they are the natural by-product in many manufacturing processes. However, emissions at high values indicate abnormal functioning. Abnormal emissions can also indicate an early machine fault, which if left undetected, may lead to machine breakdown. 

If the equipment is left without proper maintenance, individual components could lean towards malfunctions, contributing to higher emissions.


Monitoring Devices

Essential to effective emissions control is the monitoring devices that detect emission levels throughout the facility. These devices are usually electronic, such as particulate matter and nitrogen level monitors. The EHS department uses these devices to track emissions levels and the control engineer is responsible for keeping these devices in working condition. 



Figure 2. Continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) help alert operators to any fluctuations or potential dangers. Image courtesy of SICK.


If the control engineer fails to keep these monitoring devices in working condition, these devices can provide incorrect readings to the EHS department.  


Calibration Procedures

Calibration influences the performance of instruments and is used to verify the instrument’s performance against set standards. If an instrument deviates from these set standards, the monitoring devices detect the fault, making it easier for operators to classify the faulty instrument.

The control engineer is responsible for proper calibration as well as selecting the right calibration procedure for a particular instrument, not just following a single procedure for the entire system.


Compliance Requirements for Industrial Emissions

Carrying out manufacturing activities in a way that is less harmful to the environment involves help from government regulations in the following ways: 

  • Devises a mechanism plan for environmental monitoring procedures
  • Sets up standards for the manufacturing process 
  • Inspects non-compliance cases 

Every manufacturing facility is responsible for complying with these bodies, otherwise these bodies have the authority to penalize the factory.

Every region or government is regulated by their own bodies with the single aim of protecting the environment. In the U.S., there are two bodies who regulate these processes. They are Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)

OSHA’s main purpose is to provide safe working conditions for employees on the facility floor. One of OSHA’s guidelines relevant to emission controls is called Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Commercial and Institutional Buildings.  


osha logo

Figure 3. OSHA logo


OSHA identifies how IAQ changes and the benefits of improving it. OSHA identifies different sources of indoor pollution and categorizes them into biological, chemical, and particle. The guideline also outlines different precautionary steps for the control of IAQ. There are three approaches in OSHA’s guidelines that describe control techniques for IAQ problems: source management, engineering controls, and administrative controls.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an agency in the United States, responsible for protecting the environment from harmful pollutants released from different sources such as manufacturing facilities, vehicles, and all other sources affecting the environment.


EPA logo

Figure 4. EPA logo


EPA uses the Clean Air Act, which outlines requirements for manufacturing facilities to restrict the pollutants released into the environment. The EPA’s list of emission sources includes the following:

  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lead

The EPA penalizes the manufacturing facilities that fail to implement these standards.

Industrial emissions will continue to be a critical part of facility management. By complying with OSHA’s and the EPA’s regulations, engineers can better monitor and control their industrial emissions.