A conversion technology facility uses thermal, chemical, mechanical and/or biological processes to convert separated organic solid waste (a specific solid waste that contains carbon molecules, such as waste plastic or rubber) into fuels, chemicals or other useful products. These processes include but are not limited to: distillation, gasification, hydrolysis, pyrolysis, thermal depolymerization, transesterification and animal rendering. These processes do not include melting (changing from solid to liquid through heating without changing the chemical composition), direct combustion, composting, anaerobic digestion or mechanical recycling. Mills that primarily use mechanical recycling or melting to recycle materials back into similar materials are not conversion technology facilities, even if they use some chemical or thermal processes in the recycling process. Conversion technology facilities represent the next evolutionary step of solid waste material recovery.
DEQ’s conversion technology facility rules
DEQ’s conversion technology facility rules require permits for conversion technology facilities. These rules provide exemptions from permitting requirements for specific types of conversion technology facilities and for low-risk facilities that comply with specific exemption criteria. The following Oregon Administrative Rules address conversion technology facilities:
- Division 93 (Definitions: 340-093-0030)
- Division 96 (Conversion Technology Facility rules: 340-096-0160 to 0200)
- Division 97 (Fees and conversion factors throughout)
Risk and performance-based facility permitting
For facilities that require a conversion technology permit, rules are structured so that the type of permit issued is based on the facility’s risk level to public health or the environment. Below is a summary of the rule requirements for conversion technology facilities; specific language can be found in OAR 340-096 rules 0160-0200. The rules:
- Establish a base of performance standards for any facility, which address protection of public health and the environment
- Allow site operators the flexibility in site design, construction and operation to meet performance standards
- Establish site screening criteria to determine the level of environmental and public health risk posed by a proposed facility, based on the facility’s site-specific features
- Call for permit fees structured so facilities posing a greater threat and requiring more DEQ oversight pay greater amounts
- Establish a tiered permitting system. Facilities not exempt from permitting but considered low-risk, after screening, would operate under a different type of permit than a facility that poses a higher environmental or human health risk.
- Require facilities not specifically exempted from permitting requirements but claiming a permitting exemption, to notify DEQ of exemption status
- Exempt from permit requirements specific types of conversion technology facilities and lower-risk facilities that comply with performance standards
Environmental Performance Standards for Conversion Technology Facilities
DEQ’s conversion technology facility rules contain performance-based standards that all conversion technology facilities must meet, including those conversion technology facilities that are exempt from permitting requirements. These performance standards set a base level of environmental performance for all conversion technology facilities and provide DEQ flexibility to exempt low-risk conversion technology facilities from permitting requirements. Below is a summary of performance standards for conversion technology facilities; specific language on the performance standards is in OAR 340-096-0170.
The performance standards address:
- Proper design, construction and operation to prevent the improper discharge of stormwater, process water or leachate to the environment.
- Odor and dust minimization - to not create foul odors or dust emissions that affect neighbors
- Prevention of vector propagation - eliminating conditions that attract flies, rodents and other pests
- Protection of groundwater through facility design and operations, particularly if some facility liquids (such as stormwater or leachate) will be managed through soil infiltration.
- Appropriate collection and storage of biogas, oil or syngases to minimize risk of explosion and fire.
- Appropriate screening, management and use of process feedstock materials (incoming materials).
- Adequate staff training in technology operation and recognition of inappropriate feedstock materials.
- Appropriate management, storage and removal of finished products.
- Proper characterization, storage, labeling, management and disposition of waste materials, including compliance with hazardous waste rules.
- Limitations on hazardous substances contained in finished products.
Exemptions from permitting requirements for conversion technology facilities
The owner or operator of a conversion technology facility in Oregon must obtain a solid waste conversion technology facility permit from DEQ unless their facility meets criteria for an exemption from these permit requirements. Certain types of facilities are specifically exempted while other facilities may be exempted if they meet specified criteria identified in rule. The Permit Exemptions for Conversion Technology Facilities fact sheet
identifies facilities specifically exempted and summarizes criteria other facilities must meet to claim a conversion technology facility permit exemption. Consult Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR 340-096-0160 to 340-096-0200) for specific details. OAR 340-096-0160 (3)-(6) specifically addresses requirements and criteria for facilities exempt from permitting requirements.
For facilities not specifically exempted but exempted if they meet specific criteria, an owner or operator must notify DEQ of their intent to construct a conversion technology facility, by completing a Conversion Technology Facility Permit Exemption Notification Form,
in order to claim an exemption. This form must be completed and submitted to DEQ at least 30 days before facility construction begins.
Obtaining a conversion technology facility permit
According to Oregon law and DEQ rules, a conversion technology facility is considered a solid waste disposal site. Facilities that need a conversion technology facility permit must submit an application for a solid waste disposal site permit and fees; applicants should check the Conversion Technology Facility box. Along with the completed application form, the applicant must also submit a Land Use Compatibility Statement, signed by the local county planning authority. DEQ will process the completed application, conduct a site and facility environmental risk screening to determine the type of permit required, prepare a draft conversion technology facility permit along with other supporting documents, hold a public comment period on the drafted permit and supporting documents and, barring a complication, issue the permit. The table below outlines the permitting process and includes links to necessary application materials.
The permitting process
For more on the permit application and application process visit our Instructions page.