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Capturing and recovering hydrocarbon vapors to reduce emissions of environmentally hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOC) is a vital concern in modern oil and gas production and transportation. Most of the larger oil companies worldwide have established clear environmental strategies with clear VOC-reductions targets. Also, most of the larger oil companies worldwide have established clear environmental strategies with clear VOC-reductions targets.

UN-ECE, US EPA, the IMO, the EU and other bodies develop (non-prescriptive) regulations and directives focused on the prevention of air pollution from shipping. Some examples.

In Norway, measures to reduce VOC-emissions during  crude oil loading operations, both offshore and onshore, have increasingly been required by the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) and are part of international environmental agreements. The current SFT emission requirements for crude oil loading operations require a minimum recovery efficiency of not less than 78 % of non-methane VOC (NMVOC). This recovery efficiency requirement applies to shuttle tankers operating in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.

The laws and regulations for onshore sites require facilities to apply for their own independent concession under which to operate. Recovery efficiencies, rather than mass based emission rates, are commonly used for defining crude oil emission requirements because of the very wide range and complexities of crude oil compositions. Crude oils from different areas in the world, and indeed within the various sectors of oil producing areas, can vary significantly: some high in light VOC-compounds, others high in heavy compounds, etc. Similar requirements are already applied in other EU-ports (such as Goteborg, Rotterdam and Amsterdam).

A new development is the establishment of this legal framework for vapor recovery on inland waterways. The CDNI (Waste Treatment Agreement for ship generated waste and cargo residues) will soon be extended with a chapter covering the recovery of gaseous residues after unloading. This means that installations for vapor recovery will be required along dense inland traffic waterways in North-West Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Switzerland).