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Low Implementation of SO2 Emission Reduction


An analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) reveals that less than 8% of India’s coal-based power plants have adopted the recommended SO2 emission reduction technology mandated by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). This raises concerns about the efficacy of measures to control Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions. Notably, India holds the unenviable title of being the world’s largest emitter of SO2, as highlighted in a 2019 Greenpeace study.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Study’s Key Findings on India’s Coal Power Plants
  2. Technologies for SO2 Emission Reduction
  3. Categorization of Power Plants for FGD Installation
  4. Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)

Study’s Key Findings on India’s Coal Power Plants

  • Technology Implementation:
    • Only 16.5 GW of coal plants in India have installed Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) and Circulating Fluidised Bed Combustion (CFBC) boilers, equivalent to 5.9 GW.
  • Absence of FGDs:
    • The analysis reveals that a significant 92% of the country’s coal power plants operate without FGDs.
  • Role of Deadline Extensions:
    • The indiscriminate extension of deadlines by MoEF&CC and CPCB, without monitoring progress, has contributed to the lack of emission control in coal-based electricity generation units.
  • Emission Standards Introduction:
    • In 2015, MoEF&CC introduced emission standards regulating PM, SO2, NOx, and Hg emissions.
  • Deadline Extensions History:
    • Multiple extensions have been granted, four times for units in Delhi/NCR and three times for most other units nationwide.
  • Energy Generation Capacity:
    • India’s installed energy generation capacity is 425 GW, with the thermal sector holding the majority share, including coal (48.6%), gas (5.9%), and lignite (1.6%). Diesel contributes minimally (<0.2%).

Technologies for SO2 Emission Reduction

Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD):
  • FGD is a process dedicated to eliminating sulphur compounds from the emissions of fossil-fueled power stations.
  • It involves the addition of absorbents to remove up to 95% of sulphur dioxide from flue gas.
  • Flue gas is emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil, natural gas, or wood for heat or power.
Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC):
  • CFBC Boiler is an eco-friendly power facility designed to minimize the release of pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.
  • It achieves this by simultaneously injecting air and lime during the burning process.
  • Fluidization occurs when pressurized fluid (liquid or gas) passes through a medium, causing solid particles to behave like a fluid under specific conditions. This dynamic state change is known as fluidization.

Categorization of Power Plants for FGD Installation

Geographic Division (2021):

  • In 2021, the MoEF&CC implemented a categorization strategy for coal-based power plants based on their geographical locations, establishing specific deadlines for compliance.
  • Category A: Encompasses coal-power plants within a 10-kilometer radius of the National Capital Region (NCR) and cities with a population exceeding one million.
  • Category B: Includes plants within a 10 km radius of critically polluted areas or non-attainment cities.
  • Category C: Covers the remaining power plants across the country, generally having more extended deadlines.

Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA):

  • Role: An independent research organization dedicated to uncovering trends, causes, health impacts, and solutions related to air pollution.
  • Focus: Utilizes scientific data, research, and evidence to support global efforts by governments, companies, and advocacy organizations in transitioning towards cleaner energy and improving air quality.

-Source: Down To Earth

February 2024