Coal based Power Plants : Issues

India’s coal based thermal power plants are known for emitting highly polluting gases thanks to poor quality coal that India has. In the light of recent coal block auction and the triumphalism associated with it, critically examine the costs of continuing with existing technology and what needs to be done to address the issue. (200 Words)

With supreme court judgement on cancellation of coal blocks and followed events shown that coal can give lot of revenue to states and center which are facing acute problem of fiscal deficit. because of its potential revenue it get corrupted in allocations.
Coal is made up of ash, carbon, volatile matter and moisture. coal is said to be high grade when it’s carbon content is superior to others. unfortunately Indian coal is of low grade, hence when it is burnt it gives lot of toxic gases like oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, carbon in addition to fly-ash. Along with the quality of coal operational procedures in power generation leads to release of toxic gases and effluents. these oxides leads to global warming which we are witnessing now. Fly-ash deposits nearby surrounding areas and leads to air pollution and breathing problems etc. Fly-ash gets dumped on agricultural fields and disturbs productivity. Stored coal sometimes catches fire on open storage without any coverage.
These problems can be solved by:
  1. Gasification of coal, which is of high calorific value and generation of toxic gases per unit of power generated is significantly lower than that of original coal.
  2. Use of super critical technologies lowers toxic gases generation.
  3. Use of bag collectors, electro-static precipitators etc., reduces the suspended particle matter and fly-ash problem.
  4. Covering the coal reserves with water shield which lowers the fire problems. coal blocks allocation should be based on method of usage of coal in less polluting ways along with revenue concerns. unless govt.’s consider environmental impacts and just focusing on political mileage, it leads to major damage than meager revenues.
Some solution of problem (Technical one)
  1. Improve infrastructure of coal washeries in India:: In power plants raw coal is being used mostly. Coal should be washed (similar to refining of petroleum) so as to reduce its ash, moisture component.
  2. Power Plant technology :: There are both cheap and costly models available. Efficiency should be given priority over cost. Like cheap boilers, cheap cooling towers (who consume lots of water) etc. should be avoided. Further in power plants; units which are most efficient should be only used to feed the load demands and gradually old and inefficient units should be replaced by new ones.
  3. Electronic precipitators :: CPCB, SPCBs are taking bribes from NTPC; and so NTPC’s precipitators never works. So root of every problem is corruption. (One govt. agency bribes another govt. agency in this country).
  4. Fly ash treatment :: make use of it in making cement; ensure its safe disposal otherwise it can contaminate water resources. (yearly about 1 billion tonne of fly ash is generated so it is huge amount).



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