Big ben­e­fits

Down to Earth - - AIR POLLUTION - 0.40 0.56 0.20 0.76 1.23 4.11 @down2earth­in­dia

For in­stance, equip­ment such as the low NOx burner typ­i­cally re­quires a month for in­stal­la­tion. An esp re­quires three to six months. Even the fgd, which re­quires the long­est time of around two years, could have eas­ily been in­stalled by the dead­line. In ad­di­tion, a size­able num­ber of power plants should al­ready be meet­ing the new norms. Over the past decade, en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances (ECs) have steadily tight­ened PM stan­dards, which re­main un­changed for a large share of coal-based power ca­pac­ity. The time­lines were de­lib­er­ately am­bi­tious given the scale of the pol­lu­tion prob­lem.

ntpc Limited is one of the few com­pa­nies that ap­pear to have made note­wor­thy progress. Alind Ras­togi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor (en­vi­ron­ment), ntpc, says their plants will meet the PM and wa­ter norms by the dead­line. But most other plants have de­cided to ei­ther wait or ac­tively lobby to have the norms post­poned or di­luted. A cse sur­vey re­veals lit­tle progress over the past two years—many plants have not even cor­rectly as­sessed their emis­sions or taken ex­pert opin­ion on what pol­lu­tion control upgra­da­tion they may need. State pol­lu­tion control boards (spcbs) are not mon­i­tor­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion progress and have not taken any pe­nal action yet. Nor have the power reg­u­la­tors, such as cea, taken any steps to ex­pe­dite im­ple­men­ta­tion. No won­der plants are seek­ing ex­tra time. cse re­viewed the time­lines fixed by the four re­gional power com­mit­tees formed by cea for the in­stal­la­tion of pol­lu­tion control equip­ment and found that only around 10 per cent of plants will in­stall or upgrade their equip­ment in the next three years (see ‘Tardy im­ple­men­ta­tion’, p20).

In this re­gard, there is a lot to learn from China’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of tighter norms for its coal power sec­tor. It es­tab­lished na­tional norms in 2012, and gave new plants just five months to com­ply. Old plants were given three years. The ra­tio­nale for such short dead­lines was that stake­hold­ers Compared with the busi­ness as usual (BAU) sce­nario, meet­ing the new en­vi­ron­men­tal norms will re­sult in 65-85% lower emis­sions by 2026-27 Par­tic­u­late mat­ter in mt Sul­phur diox­ide in mt Ox­ides of ni­tro­gen in mt were al­ready dis­cussing pol­lu­tion control by power plants and the plants knew that new norms were im­mi­nent. Hence, they were ex­pected to be pre­pared. As pol­lu­tion lev­els grew to alarm­ing lev­els, China in­tro­duced even tighter norms for key crit­i­cal re­gions with shorter time­lines. In such cases, extending time­lines is ac­cept­able, but it should be sub­ject to firm com­mit­ments and penal­ties. Based on China’s time­lines and feed­back from equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers, reg­u­la­tors should de­mand that esp upgra­da­tion be fin­ished in the next two years and fgd in­stal­la­tion by 2020.

Tech­nol­ogy not a con­straint

In­dian plants have rea­soned that the poor qual­ity of In­dian coal makes it dif­fi­cult for them to meet the norms. Burn­ing it pro­duces lots of ash, so PM can­not be cut to the lev­els re­quired by the new norms, they said. Pol­lu­tion control ex­perts dis­agree with this con­clu­sion. In fact, glob­ally, many plants that are us­ing sim­i­lar coal have achieved even lower emis­sions by in­creas­ing the size of esps.

Some ex­perts say In­dian coal is low in sul­phur and pro­duces lit­tle SO2, there­fore, SO2 norms are un­nec­es­sary. Given the huge in­crease in power gen­er­a­tion, to­tal SO2 emis­sions have also in­creased ex­po­nen­tially and emis­sion lev­els of an in­di­vid­ual plant are no longer rel­e­vant. Oth­ers raise con­cerns about the lack of space for fgds. How­ever, fgds are needed only by larg­er­sized units since they have to meet the tighter SO2 norms. A vast ma­jor­ity of these units were com­mis­sioned af­ter 2008 when ECs rou­tinely asked them to al­lot space for fu­ture in­stal­la­tion of fgd.

Sim­i­larly, most ex­ist­ing plants will face lit­tle dif­fi­culty in meet­ing NOx norms. Adding low-NOx burn­ers or op­ti­mis­ing com­bus­tion in boil­ers are rel­a­tively easy mod­i­fi­ca­tions to both im­prove ef­fi­ciency and cut NOx. Up­com­ing plants will need to in­stall se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion (scr) units. While equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers claim this tech­nol­ogy will work in In­dia, ntpc Limited is run­ning pi­lot tests to con­firm its ef­fi­ciency and suit­abil­ity.

The power in­dus­try has ar­gued that the new norms were nei­ther rea­son­able nor re­quired. But cse estimates turn the ar­gu­ment on its head. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the norms will cut pol­lu­tants from coal-based power plants by 65-85 per cent by 2027 (see ‘Big ben­e­fits’). Without the new norms, we are look­ing at a mas­sive in­crease in toxic emis­sions from the sec­tor and a loom­ing health haz­ard.

A re­view of the time­lines fixed by the four re­gional power com­mit­tees formed by the Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity Agency shows that only around 10 per cent of coal­based power plants will in­stall or upgrade their pol­lu­tion control equip­ment in the next three years

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