Cogeneration Project

The Permit Process for a Co-Generation Project in Puerto Rico

By: Javier Vélez Arocho

The development of a cogeneration project (COGEN) within the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will require a series of permits with state and possibly federal agencies depending on the type of technology to be used, the fuel, and the amount (tons) of pollutants that would emit for a period of one year. The use of a proven technology, together with a low-emission fuel can help reduce the time required to achieve environmental compliance.

DIATOM cogeneration project

The base permit for a COGEN project is known as the Construction and Operation Permit for an Emission Source – DNER / PREQB.

The permitting of an applicable emission source will be dependent on the potential emissions estimated for the source, which includes the COGEN project and any other existing emission sources.

COGEN project

To comply with these permissions, it is necessary to obtain and generate certain information and steps that our company can help with.  

The proposed project should discuss the emissions of criteria pollutants. For this, it will be critical to describe the pollutant management systems using the BACTs or “Best Available Control Technology” criteria.

Best Available Control Technology

BACTs are an emission limitation that is based on the maximum degree of control that can be achieved. It is a case-by-case decision that considers energy, environmental and economic impact. BACT can be additional control equipment or a modification of production processes or methods. This includes fuel cleaning or treatment and innovative fuel combustion techniques. BACT can be a design, equipment, work practice, or operating standard if imposing an emissions standard is not feasible.  The use of BACTs will support any air quality study needed in the permitting process.

Best Available Control Technology

Environmental laws and regulations related to air emissions

Puerto Rico’s legal framework is remarkably similar to the one in the Unites States, so remember, there are several applicable environmental laws and regulations you are required to comply with while proposing a new project. The most important ones related to the air emissions are the following:

  • 1 – Puerto Rico Environmental Policy Act (Act 416) Act No. 416 of September 22, 2004
  • 2 – Title V – The Title V section is defined by “42 U.S.C.
  • 3 – Regulation 5300 – Regulation of Control of Atmospheric Pollution (RCAP) – year 1995

It is necessary to pay attention to the time required to prepare the environmental documents needed to comply with these statues. Your environmental permit consultant can help you in preparing a timetable with all the required steps to complete and obtain the regulatory environmental compliance during the process of preparing the Construction and Operation Permit Application for an Emission Source – DNER / PREQB.

Off the shelf technology vs. new unproven ideas

Also, it’s important to understand that these permits are based on a project using “off the shelf” technology and not new unproven ideas that may require time for Research and Development (R&D).  If the proposed project is a new technology, it may require additional time, effort and studies that will extend the review process by the state and federal regulators.

Off the shelf technology vs. new unproven ideas

You can start with the environmental and design compliance processes, and later file the construction permits. This will allow the construction of all the civil works planned for the project to begin. Now, the emission sources equipment cannot be built or installed until the Emission Source Construction Permit (ESCP) is obtained from the DNER, which will also depend on the applicability of the EPA PSD Permit.

Cooling of the COGEN equipment

Finally, it is important to define if there is a need for additional infrastructure for the cooling of the COGEN equipment, since it would be necessary to identify the capacity of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) system to handle this use. Then, it would be necessary to identify if there are any discharges from the proposed system, which would require additional permits, although it is presumed that they can be recycled to avoid additional costs.

Another permit that might be required for a COGEN project is the:

USEPA’s PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration)

This permit is established under the United States Clean Air Act for a new emission source or for areas that already have a particular federal agency classification under National Air Quality standards. (National Ambient Air Quality Standards or NAAQS).

Prevention of Significant Deterioration

Protect public health and welfare preserve

PSD is designed to: protect public health and welfare preserve. It aims to protect, and improve air quality in national parks, wilderness areas, national monuments, coasts, and other areas of special value natural, recreational, scenic or national or regional historical; ensure that economic growth occurs consistently with the preservation of existing clean air resources.

Also, it was designed to ensure that any decision to allow further air pollution in any area to which this section applies is made only after careful evaluation of all consequences of such decision and after adequate procedural opportunities for informed public participation in the process of decision making.

To achieve this, the use of the Best Available Control Technologies or BACTs are a key element.

What are Air Quality Studies?

The primary purpose of the air quality analysis is to demonstrate that new emissions emitted from a proposed primary stationary source or a major modification; along with other applicable increases and decreases in emissions from existing sources, will not cause or contribute to a violation of any Applicable NAAQS, or PSD increase (approximately 40 tons of criteria contaminants).

These analyses generally involve an assessment of existing air quality, which may include environmental monitoring data and results from the air quality dispersion model, predictions using dispersion models of the concentrations limit environmental issues that will result from the project proposed by the applicant, and as well as future growth associated with the project.

Air Quality Related Values

Other considerations may include assessing the potential impacts to areas of special national or regional natural, scenic, recreational, or historical value for which PSD regulations provide special protection. The Federal Land Manager (FLM), including the state or Indian governing body, where applicable, is responsible for defining area-specific Air Quality Related Values ​​(AQRVs) and establishing criteria for determining an adverse impact. If a FLM determines that a source will have an adverse impact on AQRVs in an area like the one mentioned above, the FLM may recommend that the permitting agency deny issuance of the permit, even in cases where the applicable increases would not be exceeded. However, the permitting authority makes the final decision to issue or deny the permit. Puerto Rico is on the list of areas where the possible installation of a major emission source may require this permit.

What additional impact analysis is required?

Sometimes, there will be other impacts to be analyzed. The additional impacts analysis assesses the impacts of other natural resources like air, soil and water pollution on soil, vegetation and visibility caused by any increase in emissions of any regulated pollutant from the source or modification under review and associated growth. Associated growth is the industrial, commercial, and residential growth that will occur in the area due to the source.

additional impact analysis

Your consultant can help you in developing the strategy to complete and obtain the regulatory environmental compliance during the process of preparing the PSD permit application.  Remember, the PSD permit is independent of the construction emission source permit from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), since the DNER will integrate it into its permit.

In turn, these permits are separate and independent from the permit granted by the Office of Permit Management (OGPe) of Puerto Rico for the construction of the facility. Some of the processes can be run in parallel, but all the permissions are needed to be able to operate.

What about time?

The time to obtain a PSD permit will depend on several factors: air conditions in Puerto Rico and EPA restrictions to avoid further degradation, technology to be used (the more commercial and the more efficient and clean the better). In the best-case scenario, times can go from 12-36 months depending on the project. It is important to note that the permitting appeals processes at the EPA are lengthy and can delay the agency’s decision for several months. To achieve a shorter time in the issuance of said permit, technology, fuel, robust studies, and a complete and well-reviewed application must be considered in order to achieve the objective of having the permit as soon as possible.

We can help you

This summary gives you guidance on how to submit permit applications both at the state and federal level to obtain the necessary authorizations for a major source of emissions. Our recommendations to any company interested in pursuing such permitting process is to select available technologies that have plenty of data in terms of performance, fuel consumptions and emissions.  These can be important considerations that may help shorten the permitting process and to move forward with the installation of the proposed equipment.

Diatom Environmental Services LLC, experts and professionals can successfully take a project from conceptual analysis and feasibility study through planning, design, and permits to allow your company* flourish in the economic environment of Puerto Rico.

For more information, please schedule an appointment with us today.

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At Diatom Environmental Services in Puerto Rico, we provide the tools and resources to clients to help them to start the permit process the right way. The permitting process in Puerto Rico can be a challenge depending on the proposed activity.
If the project is a small one, it may take only a few months to complete, however more complex projects like cogeneration projects (COGEN), renewable energy, marinas, and manufacturing facilities will require a series of permits at the state and possibly federal level depending on the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
We provide the necessary guidance to prepare all permits applications correctly. This is one of the best steps an organization can take to avoid unnecessary paperwork.
You can schedule a half hour or a one-hour session in our online calendar so we can give you guidance to start the process.
In the working initial session, you will receive personalized assistance to consider your specific needs so our team can help you in designing the best strategy to address unique needs and potential government requirements.
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