NTPC using biomass co-firing at all its power plants is a bold move towards emissions control

NTPC has a total coal-based capacity of more than 40 GW and assuming all its power stations use 7% biomass blend, the company itself can utilize 10-12 million tonnes of biomass, which is around one-third of the residue burnt

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New Delhi: Following the reports that the India’s public sector undertaking, NTPC Limited (formerly National Thermal Power Corporation) will use biomass to co-fire all its coal-based power plants, the GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, has called it a bold move to reduce pollution.

Mr Harminder Singh, Power Analyst at GlobalData while offering his view on this development and its implications mentioned, “NTPC’s decision to implement biomass-based co-firing at all its power stations is a bold move that will help in curtailing air pollution. This follows the policy announced by the Ministry of Power in 2017, regarding biomass utilization for power generation through co-firing in pulverized coal fired boilers. NTPC has already successfully used a 7% blend of biomass for co-firing at its Dadri power plant.”

“With India cities experiencing significant levels of smog in the winter months, it makes a lot of sense to co-fire this biomass along with coal in the coal-fired power plants. On one hand, it will reduce the emissions from these power plants, and on the other, reduce the coal requirements of these plants, easing the pressure on coal-sourcing.”

NTPC has a total coal-based capacity of more than 40 GW and assuming all its power stations use 7% biomass blend, the company itself can utilize 10-12 million tonnes of biomass, which is around one-third of the residue burnt.

“However, biomass logistics is a big challenge that has restricted the growth of this industry. The availability of biomass is localized and the economics of transporting biomass work out only over a certain distance. This would therefore work only for power plants located in the vicinity of regions of biomass availability. Furthermore, biomass is spread over multiple farms, making procurement a tough task.

As per the ministry, the existing power plant infrastructure cannot utilize biomass directly, so it will need to be converted into pellets. While this reduces the transportation cost, the pellet manufacturing industry is not so well-developed in India. However, this can prove to be an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to enter this industry.

“It will also be important to see how the state electricity regulatory commissions allow for the tariff increase for power plants that use biomass co-firing. The commissions will need to allow compensation in the tariff for increase in cost of generation using pellets, increase in auxiliary power consumption and plant heat rate, etc. If the appropriate compensation is not provided, the power plants will not be incentivized to use biomass.”