Lignite luminescence

The world's first lignite-based power plant in Madras offers a viable alternative to high-cost natural gas and to coal-based plants which emit greenhouse gases

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

in a move to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants, India is installing a coal gasification plant. It will be the first commercial-scale coal gasification project in the world to use lignite for producing electricity and steam.

Work is underway on an innovative 60- mw coal-fired integrated gasification combined cycle (igcc) co-generation plant in Madras. The plant being developed by ibil Energy Systems ( ies ) will supply power and steam to a private cement plant with a capacity of 2.6 million tonnes per year, being built by Sanghi Industries. ies will own and operate the plant for the first 10 years, after which the ownership will be transferred to Sanghi Cement.

The ies -Sanghi project will provide substantial environmental benefits. The introduction of igcc technology in India is a critical step in minimising the country's emissions of greenhouse gases from coal. igcc is 20-40 per cent more efficient than conventional coal-fired plant. When used for co-generation, as in the ies -Sanghi case, igcc energy efficiencies can increase up to 80 per cent and reduce co 2 emissions by almost half. igcc technology also virtually eliminates particulate emissions and reduces sulphur dioxide and no x emissions.

The plant will have a peak power output of 52.5 mw , supplying an average of 30 mw to the cement plant. Surplus power will be sold to the grid or third parties. The project will also provide 40 tonnes per hour of steam for a captive desalination plant which will provide processed water to the cement plant and hot water for domestic use to the local community. The plant will initially use naphtha as fuel while the gasification island is being completed, after which, it will be gradually shifted over to burning lignite.

One of the major attractions of the project is its replicability -- it can be reproduced in relatively standard packages. The main reason why such a project has not been developed in Europe or the us is the availability of low-cost natural gas. In India, however, there is a lack of natural gas. The project thus presents an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of igcc technology in a co-generation application, which helps off-set the inherent disadvantages of a relatively small-scale project.

The ies- Sanghi project is being financed on the basis of an energy conversion agreement under which Sanghi Cement will provide the lignite free of cost to ies, which will convert the lignite to power and provide it to Sanghi Cement at no cost.

In return for the power and processed steam, Sanghi Cement is paying ies an energy conversion fee sufficient to cover its fixed and variable costs of production. ies will be compensated at a predetermined rate which will be about Rs 1.65 per k w including an imputed cost for the lignite.

The ies -Sanghi project will demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of igcc technologies in industrialising countries. The project is especially important because it will clearly demonstrate the technical and economic viability of mid-size igcc co-generation plants which are ideal for captive industrial projects and distributed generator applications.

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