Delhi: Only 2 coal power plants switch to better fuel | Delhi News

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NEW DELHI: Air in Delhi-NCR could see a significant improvement if the 11 coal-based thermal power plants operating within 300km of the capital were to switch to cleaner flue gas desulfurisation (FGD) technology. However, only six units at two thermal power plants have so far adopted the system, which considerably reduces sulfur dioxide emissions. With two deadlines to control emissions through the FGD installation having elapsed — the first was December 2017, the second the same month last year — the power plants have not been able to comply with the latest emission standards.

While CPCB imposed a fine of Rs 18 lakh per month per non-compliant generation unit from January, experts believe that shutting down the thermal power plants that are “far behind” could be a start. Sunil Dahiya, analyst at Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said while some plants have shown an intention to switch to cleaner technology, others are yet to invite bids for the installation of new technology even after three years.
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Emissions from coal-based power plants include nitrates, mercury and secondary particulate matter, which is largely formed by sulfur compound emissions. A study has estimated that coal, fly ash and secondary particles generated by thermal power plants and industries in Delhi contribute to 35% of PM2.5 pollutants in winter and 41% in summer.
“The damage caused by these thermal power plants over the last three years is huge. Those that still seem a couple of years off from the target emission norms need to be shut down, at least in order to send a message,” declared Dahiya. “While the argument of power demand is valid, a majority of these plants operate at sub-optimal capacity. If a plant is running at 20-30% of its capacity, it isn’t a problem to shut it down and divide the generation load elsewhere.”
He argued for a concerted effort involving all thermal power plants. “It is illogical to shut down the Badarpur coal-fired plant to curb pollution but let other power generators continue. A new plant is also being set up by the Centre, which will add to the pollution load in north India,” said Dahiya.
A recent IIT-Kanpur study listed three air-corridors that were fouling up Delhi’s air, bringing to the city high lead and selenium content mixed with sulphur, an indicator that it came from a coal generation plant. “We were able to identify emissions from power plants as sulphur content is emitted with lead and selenium,” explained S N Tripathi, who conducted the IIT-Kanpur study. “Simple coal burning only emits high amounts of sulphur. This allowed us to zero in on thermal power plants as the source of the pollutants.”
According to CSE, the coal power plants account for over 60% of the total particulate matter emissions from all industries, as well as 45% of sulfur dioxide, 30% of nitrogen oxides and over 80% of mercury. A Greenpeace India study in 2018 also determined that adoption of suitable technology could bring down SO2 and NOX emissions from thermal power plants by, respectively, 89% and 79%.



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