Thermal sector in troubled water

Weakening thermal power sector threatening power crises. This article highlights few important factors surrounding thermal power sector which may play an important role in reviving the sector
A range of sources are used for power generation but thermal power continues to be among the most important forms. In the last few years, thermal power sector is in stressed state majorly because of low availability of coal. This article highlights few important factors surrounding thermal power sector which may play an important role in reviving the sector.
Plunging coal stocks at plants nationwide are set to worsen Indias energy woes especially in the north east part. If nothing is done quickly a massive blackout could be insight.
Challenges There are number of issues surrounding the thermal sector. Thermal power plants across the country are fast running out of fuel. Coal supplies to thermal power plants are dwindling, resulting in reduced electricity generation at a large number of units.
The countrys largest utility National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) has been forced to shut some of its units to cope with the situation as have some of the other power producers. The situation has been steadily deteriorating as partly reflected in data released by the Central Electricity Authority.
Apart from coal scarcity, maintenance and operating is another issue. The maintenance and operating cost of thermal power plant is high. Also a large quantity of water is required.
Ash removal, clearances from ministry of environment and forests, land acquisition are some of the other challenges for thermal power plants.
New technologiesWith shortage in coal, the introduction of new and efficient technologies for power generation is being aggressively pursued, with greater stress on renewable energy such as wind, solar and nuclear. Some of the technologies available for thermal energy are steam cycle facilities, gas turbines, etc.
According to Indian Electrical Equipment Industry Mission Plan 2012-2022, the adoption of Advanced Ultra Supercritical (Adv-USC) technology in thermal power plants will impose stringent requirements on materials used in high temperature zones. The properties required are high creep strength, resistance to corrosion and steam oxidation at high temperatures and materials used currently in supercritical power plants will not be suitable at these conditions. Critical materials envisaged for use in Adv-USC, in addition to those already being used in supercritical power plants.
Super critical technology will result in saving of about 5-8 per cent of fuel requirement and correspondingly less emission. Super critical thermal units of 660 MW and 800 MW  have already been introduced in the country and power plants with ultra-supercritical (USC) steam parameters, which have higher efficiencies are likely to be set up in India in the next few years.
Improved technology implies increased efficiency, lesser consumption of fuel and ensures reasonable cost of power to all with high reliability.
Reduce CO2 emissionMost power plants utilise coal as the principal fuel. The CO2 emissions from coal burned power plants are highest among other alternatives. As such the reduction of CO2 from coal based power plants by means of change in technology in thermal power plants and policy frameworks should be emphasised.
The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) of the Government of India emphasis the use of clean coal technologies such as supercritical, ultra-supercritical and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) that help minimise CO2 emissions while giving the highest possible energy efficiency and reducing the coal required per unit of power generated.
Technological innovation is essential to achieve significant CO2 reductions in the future. Companies are therefore taking efforts on developing new technologies that would help reduce CO2 emissions.
Companies are striving to minimise CO2 emission from thermal power generation by promoting LNG-fired thermal power generation, which emits smaller amounts of CO2 compared to other types of thermal power generation, and also by making ongoing efforts to increase thermal power generation efficiency.
Government regulations The sector has also undergone substantial structural changes. Regulatory policies have played a predominant role in changing the landscape of the Indian power sector. Though the sector has come a long way from its humble beginnings, it is still lagging on several fronts and has a long way to go.
The emission standards for thermal power plants in India are being enforced based on Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 of Government of India and it’s amendments from time to time.
The emission standards norm for 500 MW and above coal-based power plant being practised is 40 to 50 mg/Nm and space is provided in the plant layout for super thermal power stations for installation of flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) system. But FGD is not installed, as it is not required for low sulphur Indian coals while considering SO X emission from individual chimney.

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