Growth is often an essential avenue for a company to amplify its reach, distribution and return on investment. However, complex process facilities in cities that do not meet the Federal Ambient Air Quality Standards face stringent federal nonattainment air permitting requirements. To avoid a stalled development or expansion project, affected heavy industrial facilities — from chemical manufacturing and oil refining to power plants and large manufacturers — need to delve into the costly, complex and critical world of emission reduction credits (ERCs).

Effectively Managing ERCs

Federal nonattainment permits require ERCs before the associated construction can begin. A company can earn ERCs by reducing air emissions beyond what is required by current permits and regulations, which can then be used by the same company or sold on the market to another company needing emission offsets. So if a company cannot secure enough internal ERCs for a planned facility expansion, the required ERCs would need to be purchased — an expensive solution on top of expansion project costs.

Fortunately, shopping for ERCs on the open market is not the only option to meet air quality requirements. It is possible for a company to create internal ERCs and minimize the quantity of ERCs require with a thorough evaluation of current process operations and existing air permits. Such an evaluation could identify opportunities for facility improvements and offer targeted recommendations to reduce emissions — and create the most cost-effective ERC solution for each project.

This overarching evaluation and viewpoint of a facility’s current and future operations can offer significant benefits if incorporated early in the development of capital projects, especially by a holistic, in-house provider specializing in permitting, engineering and construction. This one-stop-shop approach allows valuable overlap of ongoing work from these distinct specialties, eliminating the need for multiple firms and contracts, and streamlining communication channels.

With one team managing the ERC process, companies can yield significant cost savings, increase efficiencies and execute swifter timelines to completion — staying on track with expansion needs.


Air quality permitting can often be a challenge for industrial facilities. A custom approach is often required to achieve success.


Blake Soyars, PE, is manager of the Air Quality & Noise Department, specializing in permitting and compliance for refinery, energy and chemical manufacturing customers.