Tough norms on emission and water consumption for thermal power plants likely

Environment ministry publishes draft on new rules and public can send their comments

GN Bureau | May 20, 2015


#environment   #power plant   #emission   #water   #particulate matter   #sulphur dioxide  

As India takes lead in world climate change policies, the ministry of environment, forests and climate change has drafted new emission and water consumption standards for thermal power plants.

The draft notification has been published on the ministry’s website and the public comments are allowed for next one month. Final norms are expected to be announced after a 30-day comment period.

Draft notification: click here

These new standards seek tighter norms that are expected to cut down emissions of particulate matter (PM) and other harmful chemical compounds to a large degree. Proposed standards for new plants (after 2017) will cut down emissions of particulate matter by 25 per cent, sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 90 per cent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 70 per cent and mercury by 75 per cent compared with the state-of-the-art plants

The new norms will also require all existing cooling tower-based plants to restrict water consumption to 3.5 cubic metre per watt hour.

Also, all existing once-through-cooling (OTC) system plants will need to be replaced with cooling tower-based systems that consume no more than 4 m3/MWh. This can have a remarkable reduction in freshwater withdrawal up to 80 per cent. The cumulative decrease is set to be from around 22 billion cubic metre in 2011-12 to around 4.5 billion cubic metre in 2016-17.

Compared with the industry-average, the emissions cut will be significant. For instance, the particulate emission norm for an average Indian power plant is 150 milligram per normal cubic metre (mg/Nm3). Under the proposed standards, a plant installed in 2017 will have to meet a particulate standard of 30 mg/Nm3 – a reduction of 80 per cent.

The new norms will require all existing cooling tower-based plants to restrict water consumption to 3.5 cubic metre per watt hour (m3/MWh). Plants which will be set up after January 2017 have to achieve 2.5 m3/MWh. Also, all existing once-through-cooling (OTC) system plants will need to be replaced with cooling tower-based systems that consume no more than 4 m3/MWh. This can have a remarkable reduction in freshwater withdrawal by thermal power plants – cumulatively, freshwater withdrawal will decrease from around 22 billion cubic metre in 2011-12 to around 4.5 billion cubic metre in 2016-17, an 80 per cent dip.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, has lauded the move. CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan said: "We welcome this move. It will have an impact on the pollution caused by the thermal power sector in India."

A report prepared by the CSE early this year had recommended tighter norms to help curb pollution. Other than PM emissions, which are projected to drop by 25 per cent, a number of other highly polluting chemicals are also set to be curbed. This include sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 90 per cent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 70 per cent and mercury by 75 per cent. India currently has standards only for PM, which are quite lax compared to global norms.

The CSE had also released its environmental rating of the coal-based thermal power sector, under its Green Rating Project. Forty seven plants, adding up to 55 per cent of the nation's capacity ranked poorly on all the parameters. The disproportionately high pollution levels had attracted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's attention, prompting budgetary support of additional Rs 100 per tonne cess on coal that will be used to invest in clean generation.

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