Supercritical tech set to be made mandatory for coal power plants
SUMIT KUMAR
December 28th, 2010
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The government may soon make it mandatory for power companies to switch to energy-efficient supercritical technology for their upcoming coal-fired power projects as it looks at playing a major role in global efforts to fight climate change by cutting down emission of greenhouse gases. The coal-based power projects have been identified as major contributor to environmental pollution. They contribute over 65% of the country’s total installed power generation capacity at present.

Coal-fired power plants based on supercritical technology are less polluting than conventional plants. The energy efficiency of these plants is 45% against 30-32% for conventional plants.

Indian power sector is predominantly based on coal and this will remain there for a long time in the new projects. Keeping this in mind, the government has already started several initiative to reduce emission from coal-based projects. Mandatory use of supercritical technology will be step in this direction,” said an official in power ministry in the know of the development.

It is expected that the government may announce a new policy soon for mandatory use of supercritical technology based power projects. As adoption of new technology for all projects is a time-consuming process, the government wants this to start from the 13th Five-Year plan period starting from 2017.

Equipment for a large portion of capacity for the 12 th Plan (2012-17) has already been ordered and it is feared that any new regulation for these projects may impact the capacity addition programme. “We expect that even in the 12th plan half of the capacity addition (of the total 100,000 MW) is based on supercritical technology,” said the power ministry official.

The country’s largest power producer, NTPC, has already adopted supercritical technology in a big way. Its first project based on this technology may get partially commissioned next month with the start of 660 mw unit at Sipat. In the 12th Plan, close to 90% of NTPC’s capacity is expected to be based on supercritical technology. A few private sector power projects have also ordered these equipment or 11th Plan projects.

“While the technology will definitely contribute towards improving the efficiency of coal-fired projects and reduce their emission levels, mandatory rules may impact small power projects as supercritical technology is available in large unit sizes of 660 MW and above,” said an industry expert.

“The government is not in favour of small coal- based power projects and will discourage such projects,” said a official of the Planning Commission. He said incentive schemes like including use of supercritical technology for giving mega power policy benefits could be used to promote its use. Under the mega power policy thermal units of 1,000 MW and get complete waiver from import duty on equipment purchase, income tax incentives and deemed export benefits.

The biggest bottleneck to large-scale introduction of supercritical technology comes from the shortage of manufacturing capacity for such high-end equipment. Only Bhel has recently started to manufacture supercritical equipment. Private sector major L&T is expected to start manufacturing it shortly. Other companies like Alstom-Bharat Forge, Toshiba-JSW and Italian company Ansaldo Caldie have shown interest is setting up domestic manufacturing of supercritical equipment.

Earlier, the Planning Commission had also suggested induction of supercritical to help overcome the shortage of coal being faced by several thermal power plants.

In 2009-10, the country is expected to import 29 million tonne (mt) coal for power plants. This would increase to 50 mt by 2011-12 and 120 mt in the subsequent year.

The commission has said that coal is not available for 28,000 MW of linkages granted in November 2008. Moreover 1,00,000 MW applications are pending for linkages with the power ministry.

Keeping the projected pollution in mind, the government is also thinking of introducing ultra supercritical technology and power projects based on integrated gassification combined cycle (IGCC) or clean coal technology.

A pilot project on IGCC technology is already in works in the country. The country is also working to increase the share of renewable power in the total power basket and increase generation from nuclear fuel.

Source – Financial Express

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