India asks coal plants around Delhi to use biomass

  • : Biomass, Coal
  • 21/09/27

The Indian government has asked thermal power plants located within 300km of capital Delhi to co-fire biomass with coal to reduce pollution.

The commission for air quality improvement for the national capital region (NCR) and adjoining areas has mandated 11 such power plants to co-fire 5pc-10pc biomass with coal to cut pollution and stubble burning at farms, according to the federal environment ministry.

Air pollution in the NCR is a cause for concern and pollution sources are diversified, the ministry said, citing seasonal stubble burning and emissions from vehicles, industries and thermal power plants as major contributors.

State-owned utility NTPC's Dadri coal-fired power plant located 56km from Delhi in Uttar Pradesh state was the first such facility in India to test co-firing with biomass in 2017. The pilot operation at Dadri included mixing up to 10pc biomass with coal.

NTPC co-fired 6,000t of biomass at Dadri in the 2019-20 fiscal year that ended on 31 March. Dadri provides power to Delhi and its surrounding districts and has coal-fired generation capacity of 1,820MW and gas-fired capacity of 817MW.

NTPC plans to buy through a tender 20mn t of biomass to partially replace coal at its power plants. The company expects to secure the biomass during October-November before the onset of the winter crop harvesting season in India. The biomass will be supplied over a four-year period, enabling the firm to co-fire 5mn t/yr of pellets at its 17 power plants.

The tender to buy domestically manufactured residue-based pellets, made of crop stubble and husk, was issued in September 2020. It was initially scheduled to close on 19 October. But the date was extended to late November following requests from potential suppliers, and then pushed back further to early 2021. Further delays were likely caused by the impact of a second wave of Covid-19 infections in the country earlier in the year.

NTPC has also finalised contracts to buy 456,000t of biomass pellets for interim use. Supplies are being made to seven power stations, the company said. It has co-fired a total of 28,500t of biomass pellets at its power plants as of March.

NTPC plans to co-fire biomass at its 17 plants, including Korba and Sipat in central India's Chhattisgarh state, Dadri and Rihand in north India's Uttar Pradesh state, Farakka in east India's West Bengal state and Kudgi in south India's Karnataka state.

India intends to launch a federal plan on expanding co-firing of biomass with coal, as part of a broader aim to curb carbon emissions. The so-called national mission will be aimed at increasing co-firing from 5pc currently, with a goal of having "a larger share of carbon neutral power generation from thermal power plants", India's power ministry said in May, without giving a co-firing target or an upper limit.

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