In the heart of European industrial regulation lies the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), a robust framework aimed at minimizing environmental impacts. Central to the IED are the Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Documents (BREFs), which guide industries in adopting the most effective and advanced methods for reducing emissions and pollutants. This article demystifies the concept of BAT and illustrates the role of scrubbers, a key technology in pollution control, across various sectors governed by BREFs.

Understanding BAT

The notion of Best Available Techniques (BAT) represents a dynamic and evolving standard for environmental performance in the industrial sector. BATs are not just about technology; they encompass the techniques (i.e., the technology and how it’s used), methods, processes, and practices that industries use to minimize emissions and waste. These techniques must:

  1. Achieve a High Level of Environmental Protection: BATs are the most effective methods to prevent or reduce emissions and impacts on the environment.
  2. Be Practically Viable: They must be technically achievable and economically feasible for the industry sector in question.
  3. Consider Balance: BATs balance the benefits of environmental protection against the costs for the industry to implement these techniques.

The Role of BREFs

BREFs are detailed documents developed through an extensive and collaborative process involving EU Member States, industry, and environmental NGOs. Each BREF focuses on a specific sector (e.g., iron and steel, waste treatment, chemical industry) and provides:

  • An analysis of the sector’s characteristics.
  • A description of the applied processes and techniques.
  • Considerations on emerging techniques.
  • Conclusions on BATs, which are eventually translated into emission limits and other permit conditions.
  • Scrubbers: A Key BAT Across Sectors
    Scrubbers are a prime example of BAT in action, widely applicable across various sectors. This pollution control technology removes harmful components, particularly gases, from industrial exhaust streams. Scrubbers come in various types, including:
  1. Wet Scrubbers: Used in sectors like chemical manufacturing and metal processing, they remove pollutants by contacting the gas stream with a liquid.
  2. Dry Scrubbers: Common in power plants and incineration facilities, these systems use a dry reagent or slurry to neutralize acidic gases.

Sector-Specific Applications

The sectors are diverse, each with its specific environmental challenges and BATs:

Large Combustion Plants (LCP): This sector focuses on power generation and heating plants with substantial combustion capacities. Scrubbers here are mainly used for flue gas desulfurization and controlling nitrogen oxides.

Waste Incineration (WI): Includes facilities for burning municipal, hazardous, and clinical waste. Scrubbers are essential for controlling acid gases and dioxins.

Iron and Steel Production: This sector uses scrubbers for managing emissions from sinter plants, blast furnaces, and steelworks.

Non-Ferrous Metals (NFM) Industries: Covers production and processing of metals like aluminum, copper, and zinc. Scrubbers play a role in controlling sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

Mineral Oil and Gas Refineries: In this sector, scrubbers are used for desulfurization of flue gases and treating waste gases from various refining processes.

Cement, Lime, and Magnesium Oxide Manufacturing: Scrubbers control emissions from kilns, coolers, and other processing units.

Glass Manufacturing: Involves controlling emissions from glass furnaces, including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

Ceramics Manufacturing: Focuses on emissions from kilns, including particulate matter and various combustion gases.

Chemical Industry: A wide-ranging sector where scrubbers are used to remove gaseous emissions, particularly in the production of chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, and nitric acid.

Intensive Rearing of Poultry or Pigs: While not traditionally associated with scrubbers, this sector focuses on controlling ammonia and particulate matter emissions.

Food, Drink, and Milk Industries: These industries use BATs for various waste and emission controls, though the use of scrubbers is less common than in heavy industrial sectors.

Tanning of Hides and Skins: Involves managing waste and emissions in the process of leather production.

Textiles Industry: BATs are used for managing water and chemical use, with less emphasis on scrubbers.

Pulp and Paper Industry: Scrubbers play a role in controlling emissions from recovery boilers, lime kilns, and other processing units.

Waste Treatments (WT): This sector includes a range of treatments like biological treatment of waste, incineration, and landfilling, where scrubbers manage emissions from various processes.

Production of Polymers: Here, scrubbers are used to control emissions from monomer recovery and other chemical processes.

Slaughterhouses and Animals By-products Industries: Focus on waste management and emissions related to processing animal products.

Ferrous Metals Processing Industry: Involves metalworking and finishing processes where scrubbers can control emissions from pickling lines and other treatments.

Surface Treatment Using Organic Solvents: Includes activities like painting, coating, and degreasing, with a focus on controlling volatile organic compound emissions.

Production of Cement, Lime, and Magnesium Oxide: Scrubbers control emissions from kilns and other processing units.

Manufacture of Organic Fine Chemicals: Involves specialized chemical production processes where scrubbers are used to treat waste gases.

Production of Chlor-alkali: This sector includes the production of chlorine and caustic soda where scrubbers are vital in controlling chlorine and hydrogen chloride emissions.

Production of Specialty Inorganic Chemicals: Involves a range of chemicals, with scrubbers used according to specific process requirements.

Production of Wood-Based Panels: Includes the control of emissions from processes like pressing and drying.

Manufacture of Glass, including Glass Fibre: Here, scrubbers are used for controlling emissions from glass melting furnaces.

Manufacturing of Ceramic Products: Involves emissions control during the firing and drying processes.

Large Volume Organic Chemical Industry: A significant user of scrubbers for controlling a wide range of gaseous emissions from chemical production processes.

This list highlights the diversity and complexity of sectors covered by BREFs and the crucial role of scrubbers and other BATs in ensuring environmental compliance and protection. Each BREF document provides tailored guidance for the unique challenges and processes of these sectors, ensuring that the industry adopts the most effective and advanced environmental protection measures.



The application of BAT, as outlined in BREFs, is a cornerstone of European industrial environmental policy. Scrubbers, as a part of these techniques, showcase how innovation and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand. By understanding and implementing BAT, industries not only comply with regulations but also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.

Further Reading

For those interested in delving deeper, each sector-specific BREF document offers a comprehensive guide on BATs and their applications, including detailed information on various types of scrubbers and their efficiencies. These documents are available on the European Commission’s website and provide invaluable insights for industries seeking to align with the best in environmental performance.