NTPC looking for sites to set up coal washeries

NTPC looking for sites to set up coal washeries

New Delhi: India’s largest power generation company, NTPC Ltd, is scouting for locations to set up two coal washeries, which would improve the efficiency of its projects, lower its annual coal consumption and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fly ash.

The International Energy Agency, a US-based energy policy adviser to 27 countries, estimates that Indian power plants can raise their thermal efficiency—the maximum heat energy that can be generated by burning coal—by as much as 10 percentage points by using washed coal.

A senior NTPC executive who asked not to be named confirmed the development and said, “From the requirement perspective, we are looking at two washeries with an initial size of 5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity each. Such a capacity will be enough to supply coal to two 1,000MW projects each all the year around." He declined to comment on the investments required for the projects.

The company has a total power generation capacity of 27,404MW, of which 80% is coal-based, and an annual coal requirement of 115mt. About 15% of the coal-based capacity was commissioned after 2006.

Being the largest power producer in the country, the company is also the largest consumer of coal, leading to higher pollution levels. The coal washeries initially proposed will cover a tenth of its annual coal requirements.

Indian coal has a high percentage of ash content, which in turn leads to generation of large amounts of fly ash by thermal power projects.

NTPC was recently identified as the third largest polluter among the world’s power generation companies by the Washington-based Center for Global Development, a policy and research organization. The company hopes that setting up the washeries would help it cut emissions and also make it eligible to claim carbon credits.

Analysts say that investments required in washery projects will depend upon the coal characteristics, desired output quality, the yield, and the technology options. Indicative investments range from $12,000 to $14,000 (Rs4.76 lakh to Rs5.56 lakh) per tonne-per-hour of washing capacity.

Says Dipesh Dipu, a manager with audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, “According to studies conducted by US Department of Energy, for a 10% reduction in ash content, the carbon emission reduction is to the tune of 190 kg/kWh. Mined coal has non-uniform sizes and variations in coal quality parameters, including calorific values, ash content, and extraneous material content... The cost-benefit paradigm is shifting more and more towards coal beneficiation (washing) with increasing concerns for environmental risks that coal-based power generation causes. Setting up washeries may help NTPC address sustainability issues."

With around 67% of the country’s power generation based on coal, the power sector is its biggest consumer, absorbing nearly 78% of the total coal production. Demand is expected to grow rapidly as India seeks to add 78,000MW of generating capacity in the next five years. The country has 130,000MW of generating capacity, but needs more power to fuel an economy that grew by 9.4% last year and is expected to expand by more than 8% this year. NTPC expects to account for 22,596MW, or a little under one-third of the incremental capacity.

Padmaparna Ghosh contributed to this story.