The Minamata Convention on Mercury: A global treaty making mercury history
BSEF – the International Bromine Council – joined the discussions at the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention taking place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva. BSEF supports the goals of the treat to #MakeMercuryHistory and aimed to highlight the role of bromine as part of the solution to addressing air emissions of mercury from large power and industrial plant.
THE GLOBAL TREATY
The Minamata Convention on mercury is a United Nations treaty that commits the international community to reducing mercury emissions and taking other measures to control the supply and trade of mercury as well as mercury added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury is used. Its signing in 2013 was the result of a global acknowledgement of the potentially adverse environmental and health impacts of mercury.
The Convention was adopted in 2013 by delegates from over 140 countries. Today it has 128 signatories, including the European Union and 26 EU Member States. The Minamata Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017 after the EU and seven Member States ratified the Convention, bringing the number of ratifications to 51, just over the 50 ratifications needed for the Convention to enter into force.
“BSEF shares the concern about mercury emissions to the environment and the need to reduce them”, says Dr. Kevin Bradley, BSEF secretary General. “In addition, our participation at the Minamata Convention enables us to highlight the important contribution of bromine based technologies to reducing mercury emissions and consequently to achieve the Treaty goals”.
BSEF is also a member of the UN Environment Global Mercury Partnership, a programme that works to drive solutions to mercury emissions from all sources in order to protect humans and the environment from adverse effects caused by mercury.
THE ROLE OF BROMINE REDUCING MERCURY EMISSIONS
Globally, coal power plants emit 500 tons of mercury a year. Once mercury is released into the environment, elemental mercury may be transformed into methylmercury that bio-accumulates in the food chain, for example through fish. In large doses, mercury contamination can affect the health and populations of fish and wildlife, as it harms their central nervous and reproductive systems.
Bromine-based technologies have been proven to reduce mercury emissions in a cost-effective manner.
In fact, bromine-based products can reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial installations in excess of 90%.
When coal is burned, mercury may be released in three forms: oxidized (Hg2+), particulate (Hg P) and elemental (Hg0). Elemental mercury (Hg0) is gaseous at combustion temperatures which makes it difficult to capture. Bromide additives convert elemental mercury to its oxidized form, which can then be captured more easily by emission control equipment.
After captured in emission control equipment, mercury compounds are carefully handled. This can be achieved in several ways. The method chosen will depend on the mercury abatement technology used as well as the type of installation.
Bromine based solutions are a cost-effective manner to reduce emissions from coal-fired and other large combustion plants. These innovative technologies are today part of the solution to meeting the goals of the Minamata Convention.
BSEF is the international bromine producers organisation. Since 1997, the organisation has been working to foster knowledge on the uses and benefits of bromine-based solutions. BSEF strongly believe in science and innovation. Through investments in research and development BSEF members create robust bromine-based technologies meeting the needs of society. The members of BSEF are Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, Lanxess and Tosoh Corporation.
 UNEP Booklet: Minamata Convention on Mercury, October 2013
 When applied with or in combination with various mercury abatement technologies, bromine based products can, depending upon the capture technology, reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial installations far beyond 90%