Technical Article

Reading and Reporting Industrial Emissions Data

March 17, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

Learn about the different ways control engineers can record, report, maintain, and read emissions data to promote a greener industrial environment and adhere to environmental regulations.

Data forms the basis of critical analytics. Without correct and authoritative data, the whole structure of problem identification, rectification, root cause analysis, and corrective action can fall apart. The data collection approach should be rational—correct data variables at the correct location. 

Emissions monitoring is the first milestone when designing a successful emissions control system. Data obtained from these monitoring devices and systems define the success rate for emissions controls. The environment is a major concern for governments worldwide. The government or its representative agency, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S., oversees emissions control, including data collection and reporting.


Emissions Data Recording

Environmental monitoring accountability, including emissions data, is shifting from publicly-owned entities to privately-owned entities. For the U.S., the EPA regulates greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, each factory with an emissions source is required by law to have an emissions monitoring system. 


global greenhouse gas emissions

Figure 1. Global greenhouse gas emissions. Image used courtesy of the EPA


Greenhouse gases include: 

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2
  • Methane (CH4
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) 
  • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) 
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) 
  • Other fluorinated gases 

Relevant gas detectors, such as a carbon dioxide detector, collect emissions data. 


Emissions Data Reporting

The EPA requires that emissions data collected must also be reported to them. The submissions should be sent electronically through the electronic Greenhouse Gas Reporting Tool (e-GGRT), the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) online reporting system.

If the maximum heat input capacity of all stationary fuel combustion equipment is less than 30 million British thermal units (BTU), it is assumed that total CO2 emissions are less than 25,000 metric tons and do not have to be reported. However, any facility with a source listed in Table 1 is required to report all emissions.


Table 1. A facility containing any of the listed source categories is required to report emissions. Table used courtesy of the EPA

Electricity generation units that report CO2 mass emissions year-round through 40 CFR part 75 (subpart D) Phosphoric acid production (subpart Z)
Adipic acid production (subpart E) Silicon carbide production (subpart BB)
Aluminum production (subpart F) Soda ash production (subpart CC)
Ammonia manufacturing (subpart G) Electrical transmission and distribution equipment used at facilities where the total nameplate capacity of SF6 and PFC containing equipment exceeds 17,820 pounds, as determined under §98.301 (subpart DD)(b)
Cement production (subpart H) Titanium dioxide production (subpart EE)
HCFC-22 production (subpart O) Underground coal mines liberating 36,500,000 actual cubic feet of CH4 or more per year (subpart FF)(b)
HFC-23 destruction processes that are not collocated with an HCFC-22 production facility and that destroy more than 2.14 metric tons of HFC-23 per year (subpart O) Municipal solid waste landfills that generate CH4 in amounts equivalent to ≥25,000 metric tons CO2e/year (subpart HH)
Lime manufacturing (subpart S) Geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide (subpart RR)(b)
Nitric acid production (subpart V) Electrical transmission and distribution equipment manufacture or refurbishment (subpart SS)(b)
Petrochemical production (subpart X) Injection of carbon dioxide (subpart UU)(b)

Maintaining Emissions Records

Emissions data records should be kept safe and easily available to produce documentation when the respective environmental agency inquires. The EPA requires the facility owner or operators to keep records for up to five years, depending on different scenarios and emissions levels. Records can be maintained by the engineering department, quality department, or environmental health and safety (EHS) department.

The EPA does not provide any details regarding maintaining records. Instead, the owner or operators decide how to maintain records. This includes record-keeping, updating or retaining old data, and data sharing for the concerned technical personnel.

Another method to define the document’s record maintaining is to follow the quality management system (QMS) guidelines of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The QMS does not provide information about specific documents, but outlines standards for maintaining and keeping records, such as ISO 9001:2015. The QMS emphasizes that the factory develops its own procedures describing best practices in their relevant industry.  

QMS objectives for maintaining records are as follows:

  • Communication of information
  • Evidence of conformity
  • Knowledge sharing and preserving the organization’s experience 

The records can be kept in either paper, magnetic, electronic, optical computer disc, photograph, or master sample form.


Industrial Emissions Analytics

Industrial emissions analytics is gaining attention for many reasons, such as: 

  • Increased industrial activity
  • Strict regulatory requirements
  • Sense of responsibility toward a clean environment

Alongside process improvement techniques aiding in reducing emissions, manufacturers are investing in analytics simplifying emissions control practices. The analytics for industrial emissions consist of three parts: data acquisition, processing, and report generation and archiving.


Data Acquisition 

This stage is responsible for the data collection required for implementing an emissions control system. It consists of sensors and instruments installed across the facility for recording emissions data. The selection of sensors and instruments depends on the relevant emissions.


Figure 2. An industrial engineer reading emissions data. Image used courtesy of Pexels


When selecting sensors and instruments for the data collection, make sure to have appropriate sensors to measure the desired emissions. The relevant regulatory body will identify these sensors.


Data Processing

This is the stage where algorithms make decisions about the emissions data. The algorithms are variables with required values. When selecting variables and their values, consult the regulatory body‘s requirements. 


Report Generation and Archiving

In addition to control emissions, the analytics’ purpose is to provide pragmatic reports in a format approved by the regulatory body. Regulatory bodies heavily consider these reports when giving factory operation approvals. 

The analytics’ memory must be large enough to store these reports up to the regulatory body’s sufficient time standard. The frequency of report generation is customizable, depending upon the facility’s requirement.

In addition, the analytics can also include a visual interface for easy operation and for viewing the current emissions status directly on the interface. The data display can be graphical, numerical, or a combination of both. The visual interface also includes an alarm management system, which triggers an alarm when a parameter deviates from its normal range or a problem is detected.

The EPA requires manufacturers to report emissions data over 30 million BPU. These emissions can be reported utilizing their e-GGRT system. Facilities can maintain these records using the QMS guidelines or choose an alternative method, as long as the records are kept available for up to five years.