Is Your Listed Activity Changing?

On Wednesday last week (07th of September 2022), a meeting was held by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) regarding proposed amendments to the air quality Listed Activities. The Listed Activities were promulgated under Section 21 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (NEM:AQA) in 2013 (Government Notice 893).

We attended the meeting and were pleased to see the following amendments being enthusiastically debated. After reading the article beneath, you will know: whether there are proposed changes to your Listed Activity, what these changes are, and our opinions on these changes. Some industries that are affected include sugar mills, sawmills, paper mills, boiler operators, waste tyre processors, refiners of precious and base metals, trade ports and those processing organic chemicals. Read on to learn whether your industry is affected:


Current Legislation and Application

Proposed Amendment

Category 1: Combustion Installations

Only boilers that have design ratings that are greater than 50 MW net heat input (NHI) per unit (Subcategories 1.1 – 1.4), reciprocating engines with design ratings that are greater than 10 MW NHI per unit (Subcategory 1.5), and combustion installations that co-feed waste with conventional fuels (Subcategory 1.6) are currently regulated under Category 1 of the Listed Activities.

It is proposed that additional Subcategories 1.7 – 1.11 be added to Category 1. These subcategories will apply to small boilers that are classified as Controlled Emitters, which cumulatively exceed 50 MW NHI at a single facility. It is proposed that this cumulative capacity be summed for all fuels.

Controlled Emitters have design ratings of between 10 and 50 MW NHI per unit. These boilers are already subject to emissions limits (as per GN 831 of 2013) which will not change.

Instead, the proposed amendment seeks to license Controlled Emitters using Atmospheric Emissions Licenses (AELs) at facilities where cumulative capacity exceeds 50 MW NHI. Currently, these small boilers are not required to be licensed.

It is proposed that facilities that trigger the new Subcategories 1.7 – 1.11 be provided with a transitional period of 24 months to obtain an AEL (if they don’t already have one for other activities at their site) or to vary their existing AEL to include the new subcategories.

Boilers that are too small to be classified as Controlled Emitters will remain unregulated. Instead, these boilers may be regulated by by-laws at a municipal level.

This amendment is aimed at the sugar and paper industries because most of their boilers are controlled emitters, and cumulatively they often exceed 50 MW NHI.


Click to View an Example

A facility operates three coal-fired boilers with design capacities of 20 t/hr (14.6 MW NHI) per unit, one HFO-fired boiler of 16 t/hr (11.7 MW NHI), and one methane-fired boiler of 3 t/hr (2.2 MW).

Existing Legislation: The coal-fired boilers and the HFO-fired boiler have design ratings between 10 and 50 MW NHI per unit and are thus already classified as Controlled Emitters and are required to comply with the emissions limits in GN 831 of 2013. The methane-fired boiler is too small to be classified as a Controlled Emitter, and no national emissions limits apply.

New Legislation:  The cumulative capacity of the Controlled Emitters is 55.5 MW thus an AEL under proposed Subcategories 1.7 – 1.11 will be required to operate these boilers. The emissions limits that already apply to these boilers will remain as per GN 831 of 2013. The methane boiler will continue to be unregulated.

Subcategory 3.6: Synthetic Gas Production & Cleanup

A “new” emissions limit of 3 500 mg/Nm3 for hydrogen sulphide (H2S) has applied since the 01st of April 2020.

It is proposed that a far more stringent emissions limit be introduced. A value of 500 mg/Nm3 was discussed, but no decision has been reached.

Subcategory 4.7: Electric Arc Furnaces (Primary & Secondary)

It is not clear whether the words “primary and secondary” refer to primary and secondary furnaces, or primary and secondary metal processing activities.

It is proposed that the word “furnaces” be inserted after the words “primary and secondary” so that the title reads: “Subcategory 4.7: Electric Arc Furnaces (Primary and Secondary Furnaces)”. This will clarify that Subcategory 4.7 applies to primary and secondary electric arc furnaces.

Subcategory 4.17: Precious & Base Metal Production & Refining

No minimum threshold exists for this activity.

A threshold is proposed so that those who refine precious and base metals on a very small scale, beneath the threshold, are excluded from Subcategory 4.17. The threshold will be determined after consultation with the industry.

Subcategory 4.21: Metal Recovery

The description of this activity currently reads: “The recovery of metal from any form of scrap material by the application of heat”. The application of the subcategory by licensing authorities who issue AELs is inconsistent from one authority to another, because it is unclear what constitutes “scrap”.

It is proposed that the definition of scrap materials be clarified. It is also proposed that the words “and waste materials” be added so that the description reads: “The recovery of metal from any form of scrap and waste materials by the application of heat”. This is so that the recovery of metals from waste tyres becomes regulated.

Subcategory 5.1: Storage & Handling of Ore and Coal

The threshold of this activity is: “locations designed to hold more than 100 000 tonnes.”

It is proposed that the threshold be changed to read: “locations designed to hold more than 100 000 tonnes or activities that handle more than 100 000 tonnes of ore or coal per annum”.

By adjusting this definition, coal or ore handling facilities which have high throughputs but were not previously regulated because they have small storage facilities (such as trade ports), will become regulated.

Category 6: Organic Chemicals Industry

Industries that use and produce organic chemicals are currently regulated under one all-encompassing listed activity.

There is confusion about which chemicals are regarded as “organic chemicals” and therefore trigger this category. There is also confusion regarding which pollutants are required to be sampled. Furthermore, the definition of “total volatile organic compounds” is unclear.

As a result of the confusion, the DFFE has indicated that this is one of the most under-regulated industries.

It is proposed that Category 6 be split into six subcategories that are more specific to the production processes that are intended to be regulated. 

These subcategories will be informed by the old APPA processes, the EU BAT Reference Documents, the World Bank IFC Guidelines and Stats SA’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

We suggested better definitions for “organic chemicals” and “total volatile organic compounds” and the DFFE were in agreement.

Category 7: Inorganic Chemicals Industry

The title currently reads: “Inorganic Chemicals Industry”. 

Practically this has created confusion when facilities do not consider themselves part of the inorganic chemicals “industry” but use sufficient inorganic chemicals to trigger Subcategories 7.1 – 7.7.

It is proposed that the title be changed to: “Inorganic Chemicals Processes”.

Subcategory 9.5: Wood Drying & the Manufacture of Wood Products

The description currently reads: “The drying of wood; and the manufacture of laminated and compressed wood products.”

As a result of a High Court judgement in early 2021, indirectly fired kilns are to be excluded from this subcategory. The description is to be changed to “The drying of wood inside directly fired kilns; and the manufacture of laminated and compressed wood products.”

The DFFE also suggested that this subcategory be split into two, and that wood drying in directly fired kilns, and the manufacture of laminated and compressed wood products each be regulated by their own subcategory. This would allow better regulation of two activities that are fundamentally quite different.

Category 10: Animal Matter Processing

Category 10 applies to the “rendering, cooking, drying, dehydrating, digesting, evaporating or protein concentrating of any animal matter not intended for human consumption”. 

This category has no emissions limits. Instead, best practices that minimise or avoid offensive odours must be implemented. 

However, Section 21 of NEM:AQA obligated the Minister of the DFFE to declare minimum emissions standards for all listed activities. Thus, the fact that no emissions limits have been set for Category 10 is inconsistent with NEM:AQA.

It is proposed that the category be separated into subcategories that apply to different animal matter processes, for example: rendering plants, fishmeal plants and tanneries. Emissions limits for malodourous substances like hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and methylamine are to be prescribed.

Chicken manure composting is to be explicitly excluded from Category 10.


Sections 15 – 20 describe monitoring and reporting requirements for Listed Activities.

The monitoring and reporting requirements will be updated to clarify the differences between emissions sampling, AEL compliance reporting and National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory System (NAEIS) reporting.

We suggested rectifying the conflicting mention of hourly and daily averaging periods that are specified for periodic monitoring in sections 4 and 16(a).

We welcome these proposed amendments, most of which bring clarity to this critical piece of air quality legislation. The DFFE is in the process of compiling these proposed amendments into a draft amendment notice. Once signed by the Minister of the DFFE, the draft amendments will be circulated for public comment in the Government Gazette. If your facility is one of those potentially affected, we encourage you to provide your comments to the DFFE once the draft amendments have been published.

It is imperative that industrial activities that have an impact on air quality are well regulated. Likewise, it is important to ensure that activities that do not significantly affect air quality are not regulated merely for regulation’s sake. It is Yellow Tree’s view that these proposed amendments are a step in the right direction for South Africa’s evolving air quality legislation.

Quick survey

1. Based on the amendments that are proposed above, is your facility affected?

2. Do you have someone to help you amend your Atmospheric Emissions License (AEL)?

3. What is most important to you in a stack sampling company?

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