Lesson 3: DEFINITION OF BREF (Best available techniques REFerence documents)

In this lesson, we will explore the concept of Best Available Techniques REFerence documents (BREFs) and their significance in environmental regulation.

What is BREF?

  • BREF stands for Best Available Techniques REFerence documents.
  • These documents outline specific thresholds for contaminants based on the Best Available Techniques (BATs) applicable to a particular situation.
  • BREFs provide stakeholders with clear limits, known as BAT-associated emission levels (BAT-AELs), that they must not exceed.
  • BAT-AELs serve as benchmarks for implementing preventive measures to enhance overall environmental performance.
  • Different types of BATs exist, tailored to specific industries and applications.

Monitoring and Compliance Requirements

  • BREFs introduce new requirements for onsite monitoring equipment to ensure emissions stay within legal limits.
  • Effective monitoring helps prevent excessive emissions, contributing to environmental protection.
  • Compliance with BREFs is crucial for industries to maintain their environmental credentials.

Defining the Environmental Scope

  • Defining the environmental scope involves identifying the pollutants and environmental parameters for which BAT and BAT-AE(P)Ls will be established.
  • Decisions include whether BAT should apply to emissions to air, water, and/or soil, as well as waste, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gases.
  • Selection of pollutants or parameters within each category is part of this process.
  • The environmental scope is determined through a standardized methodology and criteria, considering existing priority pollutant lists, international conventions, and parameters with significant environmental impacts.
  • It should also consider how the principal industrial activity may affect downstream activities.

Trade-Offs in Narrowing the Scope

  • Narrowing the scope of a BREF involves trade-offs.
  • While it simplifies development and saves time and resources, reaching consensus on a narrow scope can be challenging.
  • A narrower scope may limit data collection and monitoring to a select set of parameters, potentially missing other important environmental issues.
  • However, it allows for focused efforts on critical environmental concerns, offering a cost-effective approach to pollution prevention and control.

Examples of Environmental Scope Definitions European Union

  • The EU defines the scope based on the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), Article 13, and Annex III.
  • The European Commission introduced the concept of Key Environmental Issues (KEI) to prioritize environmental concerns.
  • KEIs are determined based on criteria like environmental relevance, the significance of the activity, potential for identifying new techniques, and potential for improving environmental protection.
  • The KEI approach has been used in recent BREF reviews but is subject to debate among EU stakeholders.


  • BREFs are crucial documents that establish emission thresholds based on Best Available Techniques.
  • They help industries and regulators set limits and implement measures to protect the environment.
  • Defining the environmental scope of BREFs is a critical step that involves considering various pollutants, parameters, and priorities.
  • Understanding BREFs is essential for those involved in environmental regulation and industrial compliance.
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