Plans for greener power near fruition

Plans for greener power near fruition

New Delhi: India’s efforts to move to greener power using its abundant coal reserves is now just a step away from fruition.

It’s awaiting the go-ahead from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is to review a presentation of the plan for developing the advanced ultra super critical technology at an investment of around 8,000 crore.

The technology will help in increasing the efficiency of coal-based power generation, reduce emissions and extend the life of the country’s coal reserves.

It will put India in the league of countries such as the US, Japan and China, who are working to develop a similar technology.

The programme will be run by state-owned NTPC Ltd, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic research, and involves setting up a 800MW prototype by 2017.

“We plan to commission the first prototype plant by 2017. It is a very tight schedule. We are going to make it (presentation to the PM) very shortly," said R. Chidambaram, principal scientific adviser (PSA) to the government of India.

The project will help in improving efficiency (by enhancing the heat energy that can be generated by burning coal) to 45% compared with the 40% efficiency of super critical projects (660MW and above) and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 740g per kWh compared with 830g per kWh. Every 800MW advanced unit will help reduce annual consumption of coal by 0.15 million tonnes (mt) and emissions by 0.2 mt.

“The higher you go in terms of steam pressure and temperature, higher is the efficiency... This technology is not available anywhere. We are planning to leapfrog," Chidambaram added.

Fuel shortages are expected to adversely impact the country’s power generation plans, as around 53.4% of its 164,508MW of power generation capacity is coal-based. The power sector is the biggest consumer of coal in the country, absorbing 78% of the total domestic production. To generate 1MW of power, around 5,000 tonnes of coal per annum is required. By 2032, around 50% of the country’s generation capacity is expected to be coal-based.

“The first step we have taken is to have an MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the three organizations," Chidambaram said.

“We are moving towards a paradigm shift. Our main source of energy is coal and we will be heavily reliant on coal till nuclear (power) comes in. This project will help in lower fuel consumption and less emissions," said Anil Razdan, former power secretary and scientific consultant (energy technologies) in the office of PSA.

The other participating organizations in the initiative include Institute for Plasma Research, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd among others.

“We will design equipment. The major issue is that the temperatures will be high. To withstand it, exotic materials will be required. We have to design keeping these temperatures in mind. NTPC will provide its stations for the validation of design," said O.P. Bhutani, director (engineering, research and development) at Bhel.

The project, to be funded by the government, will be located at one of the existing sites of NTPC, India’s largest power generation utility. Going forward, the country plans to have 33 such units in the 12th Plan (2012-17) and 36 units in the 13th Plan (2017-22).

“The plan envisages two-and-a-half years of design and development, and four-and-a-half years of construction. It will increase efficiency levels substantially and the moment it proves to be commercially viable, a number of projects will be set up," said D.K. Jain, director (technical) at NTPC.