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Clean coal, the next big step

New, indigenously developed ‘clean’ technologies promise to reduce India’s carbon dioxide emissions form coal plants, writes Anupama Airy. See graphics

delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2009 10:47 IST
Anupama Airy

How efficiently we use a certain black or dark-brown combustible substance is the key to find the balance between India's energy security and climate change concerns.

In order to showcase India's efforts towards reducing carbon emissions, the country's mission document on clean coal technologies, to be released shortly, will cite new technologies that have been developed indigenously.

Carbon dioxide is the main gas responsible for warming the planet, and coal-fired plants, which generate 55 per cent of the country's electricity, contribute about 60 per cent of India's carbon-dioxide emissions.

One such technology, which has found favour with the government and was discussed at a recent session - chaired by Shyam Saran, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy on climate change, and the government's principal scientific advisor R. Chidambaram - is the development of advanced ultra supercritical technology that will bring down carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by as much as 18 per cent.

This is also in line with India's goals of cutting the carbon emissions intensity by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020, as announced by environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit that started on Monday.

A senior government official said efforts to develop this technology would be led by the country's largest thermal power generating firm, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and steered by experts from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Atomic Research.

The shift is already visible. Most thermal power plants in India are already moving towards the adoption of the supercritical technology (SCT), which reduces coal consumption in a power plant and increases efficiency.

Reduction in coal consumption means lower carbon dioxide emissions and therefore a check in global warming.

Supercritical technology reduces the coal in-take in a power plant, thereby improving the plant efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Ultra and advanced ultra supercritical technologies further reduce the coal intake in a power plant.

"Promoting usage of such technologies will help India in producing cleaner energy thereby putting India on a relatively lower carbon path," the official added.

"More is the efficiency of a power plant, the lesser is the carbon dioxide emission," said D.K. Jain, executive director (engineering), NTPC Ltd.

"The advanced ultra supercritical technology under discussion will help in reducing carbon emissions from a power plant by almost 17 to 18 per cent as against a conventional thermal power plant," Jain said.

As per power ministry estimates of , most thermal power plants in India will use the supercritical technology. The NTPC, which is installing SCT in almost all its upcoming new units, has already planned seven 800 MW units, which will use the ultra SCT.