‘Industries in critically polluted areas need to reduce SO2 emission by 90%’Updated: Feb 15, 2020 00:31 IST
Industries using furnace oil, located in critically polluted areas in Maharashtra, have been given a deadline of February 5, 2021, to reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 90%, stated the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) as part of its new fuel policy.
The new fuel policy for industries was published on February 5 and uploaded on the MPCB’s website on Thursday.
The policy directs all industries falling in critically or severely polluted areas, irrespective of the quantity of fuel used or amount of operations, to install SO2 scrubbing systems and reduce emissions by 90% over the next year.
“In case they fail to curb SO2 pollution, they have to stop using furnace oil,” said Sudhir Srivastava, chairman, MPCB. “The policy reiterates the ban imposed on industries, except cement, to use petroleum coke as fuel,” he added.
VM Motghare, joint director (air quality), MPCB, said, “The scrubbing SO2 removal system is a low-cost technology using caustic soda slurry or dry sorbents.”
All other industries (red, orange and green categories not located in critically polluted zones) need to cut SO2 emissions by 90% within two years( by February 5, 2022). All industries need to install continuous online emission monitoring systems and connect it to the MPCB and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) server, states the new policy. The industries are classified as red – causing most pollution, orange - medium pollution and green - low pollution.
However, the policy falls short of identifying safe concentration standards for sulphur and nitrogen oxide in the industrial areas, said experts.
Petroleum coke is a carbon-rich solid derived as a by-product from oil-refining and has high sulphur content. Furnace oil is the residue fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, also containing sulphur. Using petroleum coke and furnace oil contributes to high SO2 emission and secondary sulphate formation as particulate matter (PM).
A 2017 Supreme Court order banned pet coke and furnace oil use in Delhi NCR. Subsequently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2019 directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to issue directions to all states to come up with a fuel policy restricting the use of pet coke and furnace oil.
Over 2,000 large and medium industries use furnace oil in Maharashtra, said the MPCB’s chairman. “It is a preferred option as the cost is low. However, with high boiling fraction and large sulphur content, SO2 emission on combustion severely pollutes the air. If an industry is burning 1 tonne of fuel which has 40 kg sulphur, the entire amount would be emitted. Based on the new policy, 90% of that 40 kg needs to be reduced before release,” said Srivastava.
Mumbai was identified as the second most polluted megacity in India with maximum sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in 2018. According to a Greenpeace report - Global SO2 Emission Hotspot Database – Mumbai generated 42 kilotonnes (kt) SO2 per year in 2018 while Chennai was ranked the most polluted megacity with 215kt in 2018.
Experts said banning pet coke was a good step but more needed to be done to check furnace oil. “MPCB needs to carry out industry-wise mapping to check the preparedness of industries to install scrubbing systems to ensure that they adhere to the timeline. Also, safety standards in terms of concentration for SO2, nitrogen oxide need to be implemented at the earliest,” said Anumita Roychowdury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment.