New Delhi: In an attempt to reduce the carbon dioxide emission levels from coal-based power projects, the government has asked the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and India’s largest power generation utility NTPC Ltd to work together in finding ways to use bacteria for clean-coal technology.
The government is also looking at using bacteria for carbon capture and absorption.
While international laboratories have reported strains of bacteria that can decompose the toxic sulphur in coal, forming so-called clean coal in the process, which burns better without sulphurous residue, a bacteria to sequester carbon hasn’t been identified yet.
“There have been reports by research teams in Norway, earlier this year, that certain marine bacteria may use carbon dioxide and release oxygen—similar to algae,” said a CSIR scientist, who didn’t want to be identified.
The Indian initiative comes on the back of government’s increasing worry with India being ranked fourth (9%) among top contributors to global carbon dioxide emissions by the Netherland Environment Assessment Agency, and coming under increasing international scrutiny.
“We need to be sensitive to the idea of carbon dioxide emission and these efforts are part of the government’s road map for clean coal technology and will include a series of projects. What we do in power is fundamental as 50% of the carbon dioxide emissions are from power projects. We plan to create a national programme for clean-coal technology,” said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for power and commerce.
“At the rate at which our coal consumption is growing within next five years we will be at the third position,” the minister said.
A senior NTPC executive and Samir K. Brahmachari, director general of CSIR, confirmed the development but said the project was in an initial stage.
The ministry has involved NTPC as 80% of its installed capacity is coal-fired.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development, a policy and research organization, recently identified NTPC as the third largest polluter among the world’s power generation companies.
With India producing around 67% of its electricity by burning coal, the power sector is the biggest consumer of the fuel, absorbing nearly 78% of the production.
India’s present power generation capacity is 143,000MW, and expects to add 78,577MW by 2012, of which around 46,600MW will come from coal-based projects.
India consumed 485 million tonnes per annum, or mtpa, of coal in 2007-08, of which 75% was for the power sector.
The demand for coal is expected to touch 1 billion tonnes by 2018.
The sector, excluding the planned ultra mega power projects, is expected to need 545mt of coal by 2012.