New Delhi: An alleged dispute over intellectual property rights has stalled a joint initiative between Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) and NTPC Ltd to build less-polluting power generation plants.
The two state-owned firms had proposed to jointly set up integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, plants to convert coal into cleaner fuel that is then burned in a gas turbine combined cycle to generate electricity.
Power point: NTPC, Singrauli thermal power station in Uttar Pradesh. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
While it costs Rs4 crore per MW to build a conventional power plant, an IGCC plant costs twice as much.
“NTPC wanted IPR (intellectual property rights) on the technology, which we were opposed to,” a top Bhel executive said requesting anonymity.
R.S. Sharma, chairman and managing director of NTPC, didn’t respond to calls made to his cellphone.
A senior NTPC executive, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We are still working on the experimental and testing stage. (But) we do not have confidence in the work done by Bhel and wanted more data to be provided for which they were not willing.”
The NTPC executive denied any dispute over the sharing and control of IPRs. “It was decided that whatever work has been done by Bhel, the IPRs will be owned by them and post our joining the initiative, the IPRs for the work done together will be jointly shared by both the companies,” he said.
While the country’s first IGCC project of 125MW is to be set up by Bhel and Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corp. Ltd at Vijayawada, the other 300MW Bhel project was to come up at Auriya in Uttar Pradesh in association with NTPC. These plants required a combined investment of Rs3,400 crore.
The government had asked the two public sector units to set up these plants as it was worried about the rising levels of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power projects, as reported by Mint on 4 July.
NTPC has a total power generation capacity of 29,894MW, of which 80% is coal-based, with an annual coal requirement of 115 million tonnes.
It has been scouting for locations to set up two coal washeries, that would improve the efficiency of its projects, lower its annual coal consumption and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fly ash.
Proposals for such power projects are part of the government’s efforts to burn coal cleanly. It wants to focus on the power sector, which accounts for half of India’s carbon dioxide emissions. Almost 70% of the power generated in the country is from coal.
And 78% of the coal used in the country goes to power plants. India, with a current power generation capacity of 145,000MW expects to add an additional 78,577MW by 2012, of which around 46,600MW will come from coal-based projects.
Dipesh Dipu, principal mining consultant with audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Clean coal technologies, including IGCC, may help in sustainable development of energy sources. Developing countries, including India, are likely to adopt stringent environmental standards, and IGCC technology may help in continued usage of our coal resources, as they are amenable to environment-friendly energy generation through this technology.”
While India’s carbon dioxide emissions are low on a per capita basis, they are quite high in absolute terms.
The country is ranked fourth among top contributors to global carbon dioxide emissions in a list compiled by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. According to this agency, India accounts for 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions.