The use of sulphur-heavy fuel, a major source of air pollution, such as furnace oil (FO) and pet coke in industries operating across the country will finally be regulated, starting this winter. In the absence of any emission standards for SOx (sulphur oxides) and NOx (nitrogen oxides), the use of these fuels were rampant in industries, generating “enormous amounts” of air pollutants, especially in the National Capital Region, according to a Supreme Court-appointed body.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has now fixed the emission standards for SOx and NOx for 16 types of industries, which essentially means that the use of pet coke and FO, cheaper alternatives to natural gas and petrol, will have to be brought down. It is learnt that the agency has recommended to the Environment Ministry that the emission of SOx and NOx from the boilers of these industries should not exceed 600 and 300 micrograms per cubic metre respectively. The proposed standards — which will cover industries such as cotton textiles, pulp and paper, caustic soda, leather — now await the ministry’s nod. It is likely to be notified soon, a senior official said, wishing anonymity. While furnace oil (FO) is ‘bottom-of-the-barrel’ product at refineries, pet coke is a by-product found in these facilities.
The astounding amount of sulphur content in these fuels becomes clear from the fact that while in BS-IV compliant petrol or diesel its 50 ppm (parts per million), in FO and pet coke it ranges between 15,000 and 74,000 ppm. Anumity Roychowdhury, who heads the air pollution division of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said it was a welcome move as prolonged exposure to gaseous pollutants like SOx and NOx impair the respiratory system. “Moreover, they produce secondary particles which add to the volume of particulates. The chemical reactions between gases such as SO2 and NOx give rise to these particles,” she said.
The SC-appointed Environment Pollution (Control and Prevention) Authority has called for amendments to a 1996 notification that had banned these fuels in Delhi, so that the prohibition can be extended across NCR. Around 30,000 metric tonnes of FO have been sold every month in NCR last year, an EPCA report noted recently. “These secondary particles are a key source of air pollution in Delhi/NCR. “According to the IIT-Kanpur report, as much as 25-30 per cent of the winter sources are secondary particles, which are emitted from vehicles, power plants and industries,” the report said.