Thermal power plant emissions: MoEFCC zeroes in on FGD, environmentalists say tech outdated

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Kolkata | Published: February 27, 2017 1:33:48 PM

Plants commissioned between 1990 and 2008 with an aggregate installed capacity of 43,000 mw will also need implementation of FGD technology for controlling SO2 emissions

Installed capacity of such plants aggregated to 83,000 mw. (Reuters)

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in its technology hunt spree to reduce emissions of thermal power plants has zeroed down on Flu Gas Desuplhurization (FGD) technology, which according to a section environmentalist is an outdated technology used in the last century. Following the MoEFCC’s notification of new environmental standards, which called for cut in particulate matters by 65%, oxides of nitrogen ( NOx) by 70% and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 85% at 1,246 billion units of power production level from 2 48,000 mw of installed capacity by 2026-27, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recommended use of FGD technology to mainly meet the SO2 emission norms because the larger units installed after 2008 were already designed to meet the emission standards of particulate matters and NOx. Installed capacity of such plants aggregated to 83,000 mw.

Plants commissioned between 1990 and 2008 with an aggregate installed capacity of 43,000 mw will also need implementation of FGD technology for controlling SO2 emissions besides up gradation of electrostatic precipitators (ESP) and installation of retrofit boilers to reduce emission of particulate matters and NOx. However, plants of smaller size aggregating 27,000 mw of generation but installed after 2008 might be already meeting particulate matter emission standard and NOx norms but those plants require upgraded ESPs and retrofit boilers. However, plants older than 25 years totaling a generation capacity of 34,000 mw required closing down because installing pollution control mechanism in them would not be cost effective, the CSE recommended.

Although the MoEFCC has already framed a policy guideline involving the CEA to be the key technical adviser preparing technology guidelines, CERC simplifying the tariff application, CEA and Central Pollution Control Board developing monitoring mechanism and CEA and Power System Operation Corporation Ltd scheduling shut down for installation of pollution control equipment, a CEA official felt the government was not giving enough scope to explore on technologies. CSE, though an NGO, has recommended about technology and has framed almost the entire policy guideline to meet the new environmental norms. But how much would be really achieved remains a question, said a senior CEA official on the condition of anonymity.

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According to Dr.Amitava Bandopadhya, an environmental scientist, FGD would not be of great advantage to foster clean coal technology in India, since that technology would have to be soon replaced by a newer one to meet the actual environmental standards. FGD, he said, was primarily commissioned in the last century to the coal fired plants in the developed nations for removal of SO2 and prevent acid rains. It also helped in obtaining gypsum as the end product. But in the recent years multi pollutant capture technology has come up which can together capture CO2, SO2, NOx and HG. China with an installed capacity 9,38,000 mw was in the process of adopting such a technology for pollution control and yielding marketable fertilizer mix.

According to Dr.Amitava Bandopadhya, an environmental scientist, FGD would not be of great advantage to foster clean coal technology in India, since that technology would have to be soon replaced by a newer one to meet the actual environmental standards. FGD, he said, was primarily commissioned in the last century to the coal fired plants in the developed nations for removal of SO2 and prevent acid rains. It also helped in obtaining gypsum as the end product. But in the recent years multi pollutant capture technology has come up which can together capture CO2, SO2, NOx and HG. China with an installed capacity 9,38,000 mw was in the process of adopting such a technology for pollution control and yielding marketable fertilizer mix.

In India multi pollutant capture technology would be able to earn benefit from the concomitant products, Bandopadhyay said adding that a single technology for removing all the pollutants could be more economic than installing independent technologies for removing each of these separately. Developed nations that have installed FGDs earlier cannot avail this advantage unless the existing FGDs are removed. India has the advantage since almost all the power plants except 6, are not installed with FGD, Bandopadhyay said.

Although Bandopadhyay has not given any cost estimation of the multi pollutant capture technology, CSE has estimated the cost of their recommended technologies between Rs 1.10 crore and Rs 1.45 crore per mw. This was recoverable through tariff increase with the expenditure for pollution control included within the capex of the power plants, CSE recommended.

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