By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai– A pioneering indigenous technology for coal-fired power plants, which requires less fuel, delivers greater efficiency and is a tad cleaner, will be ready in four years — possibly ahead of other countries in the race.

Revealing this to IANS in an interview, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) Director Arun Kumar Bhaduri said: “The research, development and design phases of the 800 MW advanced ultra supercritical (AUSC) boiler for coal power plant will be ready by 2019-2020.”

The timeline for the construction of an actual 800 MW power plant with AUSC boiler would depend on the regulatory approvals for the plant design and the funding of the plant construction, he added.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a proposal for the research and development of AUSC technology for thermal power plants at an estimated cost of Rs 1,554 crore (over $230 million).

The central government will provide one-time budgetary support — by the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) — of Rs 900 crore spread over three years, commencing from 2017-18, to power equipment major Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) to implement the R&D project.

There will be contributions of Rs 270 crore from BHEL, Rs 50 crore from power generating company NTPC Ltd, Rs 234 crore from IGCAR and Rs 100 crore from the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

The Indian government has proposed a National Mission for the Development of Ultra Supercritical Technology for thermal power plants as the ninth such under the National Action Plan for Climate Change under the guidance of R. Chidambaram, the government’s Principal Scientific Adviser.

As per plans, the IGCAR will develop the material for 800 MW AUSC boiler that can operate at a pressure of 310 bar (a measure of steam pressure) and at a temperature of 710 degrees centigrade.

Power equipment major BHEL will design and manufacture the boiler and other equipment while power generator NTPC will be the end user to produce power.

Expressing his happiness at the sanction of funds Bhaduri said: “We have taken this challenging project and would complete the mission.”

When asked about the 800 MW capacity instead of higher one like 1,000 MW, Bhaduri said: “The capacity was decided taking into account factors like cost to power ratio and others.”

According to him, once the first 800 MW AUSC boiler powered thermal power plant starts operations the capacity may be re-evaluated.

He said NTPC will decide on the location of the 800 MW AUSC boiler power plant. It will be in one of the locations where NTPC has power plants powered by super critical boilers.

According to Bhaduri, 10 pre-project activities were taken up for research on specific gap areas.

“We have now come to a stage where research and development for the finalisation of the design of the plant could be started from a higher platform,” he added.

According to him, all the aspects of a power plant — boiler, turbine and balance of plant — have been taken into consideration.

“We are also developing Indian industries for supply of components for the plant,” he said.

“We have optimised the usage of an existing one so that they perform well at high temperature. The boiler tubes tested have shown better properties than internationally available,” Bhaduri remarked.

The AUSC project will enable Indian industries to design, manufacture and commission higher-efficiency coal-fired power plants with indigenously developed technology and manufacturing processes.

“This will be the first time that large power plant equipment will be manufactured with advanced technologies, but without any technological collaboration/licensing agreement with foreign companies,” the central government said.

The proposed technology is still in research stage in all countries working on it. It is still not matured or been demonstrated anywhere in the world.

As to the rationale for funding the project, the central government said power generation from coal contributes about 38 per cent of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere.

A 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emission at source combined with 20 per cent saving in coal consumption compared to a sub-critical plant and by about 11 per cent compared to a super critical plant are the primary reasons justifying this project. (IANS)