Myths and Facts: Rampal Power Plant

 

The anti-Rampal Power Plant activists forming various marginal platforms continue their propaganda against the Rampal 2X660 MW power plant. The project is under implementation by Bangladesh-India Friendship Coal Power Company (BIFCPL), a joint venture of BPDB, Bangladesh and NTPC, India.

The power plant location is on the bank of tidal Posshur River,14 km away from the outer periphery Karamjal of the Sundarban Mangrove forest and about 70 km away from the UNESCO world heritage area of Sundarban. There had been intensive media debates over the perceived impacts of the power plant on Sundarban mangrove forest. All the concerns of a section of civil society, left-leaning political activists and non-technical academicians were effectively neutralised by professionals. The concerns raised by UNESCO from a report of three member environmentalists were also clarified point by point clarified. Even the Prime Minister of Bangladesh addressing a press conference categorically government’s position that the project underwent extensive assessment before adoption and intensive monitoring would continue at all stages of implementation and operation. Recently two Indian environmentalists presenting the findings of their research on coal-fired power plants at Mundra, India echoed the voice of that particular group of activists agitating against Rampal Project. This write-up while updating the status of Rampal Project would address the concerns raised recently that Rampal Power plant would cause irreversible damage to Sundarban.

The Arguments of Indian Specialists:

The Indian researchers quoting their findings of research mentioned that a much smaller mangrove forest is almost destroyed from harmful impacts of coal-fired power plants in Mudra. The biodiversity is reportedly seriously impacted and people are suffering from mercury impacts and lung infection. If this allegation is really correct then why democratic Indian government is letting those plants continue generation. Mundra is one of the major centres of coal-fired power generation in India. There may be some isolated incidents in some plants not using proper coal or technology or not following standard operation and maintenance procedures. But it is unbelievable that such a huge impact as alleged is going unnoticed for years. Quoting such situation, the two experts triggered a fresh alarm that Rampal Power plant would cause similar impacts on Sundarban. Before discussing the impacts of coal-fired power generation in Mundra, India we would first discuss how the possible emissions and pollution impacts from Rampal Power plant would be managed and minimised.

Rampal Power Plant:

The project is owned and operated by a 50-50 joint venture of Bangladeshi and Indian state-owned power company BPDB and NTPC named Bangladesh-India Friendship Coal Power Company Ltd. (BIFCPCL). Each company contributes 15% of the project cost and remaining 70% comes from a loan from Indian Exim Bank given to the joint venture company BIFCPCL. To this effect, a loan agreement for 1.6 Billion US$ at LIBOR +1% interest rate has been just concluded between BIFCPL and Indian Exim Bank. German Company FISCHNER is the client engineer and Indian Company BHEL is the EPC Contractor for the plant. BIFCPL will import the specified coal based on which the conceptual design of the plant has already been incorporated in the EPC contract. NTPC for their extensive experience in Coal Fired power generation technology is acting as a lead partner during the construction. BPDB and NTPC each contributed 15% to the project cost. Of the 70% loan given to BIFCPL each will account for 35% meaning that BPDB and NTPC would each bear 15%+35% = 50% of project cost obligation. The loan will be repaid from the sale proceeds of power generated. A Power Purchase Agreement would be concluded between BPDB and BIFCPL. In Bangladesh, BPDB is the single buyer of power. Like all other IPPs selling power to BPDB, Bangladesh government provides sovereign guaranteed as per standard norms and procedures.

Location of The Plant:

The location was selected by BPDB after an extensive survey, feasibility study and Environmental Impact Assessment. The acquired land used to be mostly fallow, low lying and was being used mainly for shrimp cultivation. It neither affected agricultural land nor required that many inhabitant relocations. Moreover, being located beside Posshur River connected with the Bay of Bengal it was considered ideal for an imported coal based thermal power plant. During finalistaion of location, the exclusive zone of such plant from Sundarban Mangrove forest as per Bangladesh Environment law was duly observed. The location is outside the 10km exclusive zone of the mangrove forest meeting such criteria set by Department of Explosive (DOE) in accordance with Bangladesh Environmental law

Coal Specification, Technology:

FISCHNER suggested and BIFCPL approved EPC tender document specified coal to be used and technology to be adopted for restricting emissions and pollutions below acceptable threshold limits.

The imported coal based power plant using higher heating value (57,000 kcal), low sulphur (0.6-0.9%) and less than 10% ash coal will adopt supercritical technology for higher efficiency. The coal will have a negligible quantity of mercury. Moreover, in the design documentation of EPC contract, additional measures have been incorporated for emissions of SOX, NOX , HG, particulate matters of ash and also against water pollution from the effluent of the power plant. The coal to the plant would be transported in covered vessels after transhipment from mother vessels anchored at deep sea through covered conveyor system. Two smaller purpose built coal carrying vessels would ply every day through the wide channel across the Sundarban to the coal terminal of the plant. There will be a provision of a completely covered coal storage at plant side as a contingency measure for storage of 3 months requirement equivalent coal. Use of superior quality coal, adoption of supercritical technology and incorporation of additional measures for emission and pollutions restriction will ensure that plant would cause no significant impact on biodiversity and ecosystem of the mangrove forest.

CO2 Absorption:

Trees and plants feed on CO2. As such CO2 emission is not going to harm Sundarban mangrove forest in any way. Still, for restricting CO2 emissions spreading outside the plant area deep afforestation program has already been initiated with the collaboration of Bangladesh Forest department. By the time the plant comes into commercial operation in late 2021 the area around the plant will have mini forest outlook.

Flue Gas Desulphurisation Plant:

Obliging to Bangladesh DOE condition while approving the EIA, the plant design has incorporated Flue Gas Desulphurisation Plant (FGD) which using wet limestone, forced oxidation process and using double flow contract scrubber would extract 96% of the sulphur from the coal. This will eliminate the possibility of SOX emission above the acceptable limit.

Low KNOX Burner:

Low knox burners have been included to restrict knox emissions. Closed coupled overflow air (CCOFA) low knox tangential firing system of the boiler would reduce NOX emission below 510mg/Normal Cubic Meter.

Particulate Materials Control: The plant design mandates incorporation of Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) and ash from the burnt coal will be collected by dry ash collection method. This will restrict as emission to below 50 mg per cubic meter while the internationally acceptable limit is 150 mg per cubic meter

Mercury Removal: Wet limestone used in FGD will take out most of the mercury along with sulphur. Some Mercury will also be absorbed with dry ash.

Ash Control: 100% of the fly ash and bottom ash will be collected using dry ash collection system. BIFCPL has already been approached by cement factories in the area for collecting all the ashes that would be collected. On top of that as contingency measure using High Concentration Slurry Disposal System (HCDS) ash can be temporarily stored in ash pond. The Ash pond will have high walls higher above the highest flood level to arrest escaping of any ash to surface and sub-surface water. HCDS will practically convert ash to ash stone.
Water and Effluent Quality Control: Multi-stage closed loop water recycling system and adoption of dry ash collection system would ensure limited use of water in the process. Only about 0.05% of the water flowing in Posshur River will be used in the plant as makeup water. Central Effluent Treatment Plant will treat effluent to ph7 level before this is released to stream. IFC standard of effluent release differential temperature below 2 degrees Celsius would be ensured.

Chimney: A very tall 275-meter chimney has been incorporated in the design obliging to DOE condition of EIA approval. Such a tall chimney will ensure that most of the residual entrained particles would drop down and velocity of emission would become negligible as it leaves the top of the chimney. Moreover, a survey has suggested that air from the plant blows towards the Sundarban for only 90 -100 days every year.

Concerns Raised by Indian Experts: We hope from above the concerns raised by Indian researchers have been responded. Adoption of supercritical technology, use of specified superior quality low ash, low sulphur coal, additional measures incorporated in the design (FGD, Low Knox Burner, ESP, Closed Loop Water Recycling System, Dry Ash Cooling System ), ash disposal system would address all perceived emissions and pollution concerns. Sundarban is a precious asset of Bangladesh and our pride possession. The government of Bangladesh has assessed, reviewed and examined all pros and cons of such a prestigious project before approval. Any outsider before making any observation about Rampal Power project must go through design documentation and visit site to see for themselves how the project is being implemented and where is the plant located.

Monitoring System:

Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) would monitor
• Flue Gas Temperature
• SOX, NOX, O2 and oxide of carbon emissions

Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (AAQMS) will monitor air quality around the plant.

Power Generation in India:

Power Plants Installed Capacity (MW) in India (June 30, 2016)

Sector

Coal

Gas

Diesel

Nuclear

Hydro

Others

Central

  54,335.00

  7490.83

  00.00

6780.00

11,651.42

    00.00

State

  64,685.50

  7257.55

363.93

    00.00

29,683.00

1976.90

Private

  74,143.38

10580.60

473.70

    00.00

  3,144.00

48,041.10

All India

192,168.88

25,329.38

837.63

6780.00

44,478.42

50,018.00

%

         60.13

          7.95

     0.26

       2.12

       12.92

16.85

The above table evidence that even in 2016 over 60% of power generated from India comes from coal. Some of these plants may be using relatively higher sulphur and higher ash coal. But India also several plants using supercritical technology and using superior quality coal imported from Indonesia and Australia. If the comparison is to be drawn with Rampal Power plant at all that must be apple to apple basis. One two below performing power units are not international standard.

Power Plants At Mundra:

For the readers here we add the brief of two major power plants located at Mundra in Gujrat India.

Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project (Mundra UMPP) is a sub-bituminous coal-fired power plant in Tunda village at Mundra, Kutch district, in Gujarat, India. The coal for the power plant is imported primarily from Indonesia. The source of water for the power plant is sea water from Gulf of Kutch. The power plant is owned by Tata Power. The special purpose vehicle Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL) was incorporated on 10 February 2006. The 4000 MW capacity power plant has 5 units each having installed generation capacity of 800 MW

Mundra Power Plant:

The 4,664 MW Coal Based Mundra thermal power plant in the Kutch district of Gujarat in India is located near Mundra Port, which is owned by Mundra Power Special Economic Zone. Adani Power, a subsidiary of Adani Group, developed the project.

The plant was developed in four phases and comprises four 330MW units and five 660MW units. Construction began in 2008 and the project was fully commissioned in 2013. All the 660MW units feature supercritical technology, which reduces carbon emissions by up to 20% more than the conventional thermal power units. The units have more than 40% efficiency as they operate at high temperatures and pressures

Mundra Power Plant is the biggest thermal power plant India, and one of the biggest in the world. The project was undertaken as part of the company's strategic plan to achieve generation capacity of 20,000MW by 2020. The Mundra Power plant plans to achieve a generation capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020.

Australian Experience:

Australia is the largest exporter of coal and most of its thermal and cocking coal is exported along the channel adjacent to the UNESCO world heritage “Great Barrier Reef. Two major export ports are in Gladstone, Queensland which is also not far from the Great Barrier reef. These two ports RG Tanna Coal Terminal of Gladstone Coal Port (GPC) and Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) together account for over 40% of Australia’s coal port. A large 1800 MW subcritical technology using coal-fired power plant is in operation at the heart of Gladstone city for over 50 years. Coal to the power plant and the two ports are transported by rail from mines located as far as 400 KM. There are many other industries like Aluminium Smelter, Cement Factory, Crude Oil Refinery, Wood Chips, LNG Processing plants. There is no complain of any air, water pollution. Australia’s most popular Barramundi Fish finds the lake and waterways beside coal port and power plant their preferred breeding place. Australian government after the closing of large Hazelwood Power Plant in Victoria is going heaven and earth for setting up new large coal-fired power plants as soon as possible. Australian Prime Minister recently visited India to advance the works of proposed Adani Group Carmichael Basin Coal Project Development.

Conclusion:

We cannot make comments about approval procedure and monitoring of the operation of coal-fired power plants in India. But if there was any merit of the findings of Indian researchers about the alleged adverse impacts of the coal-fired power plants at Mundra Gujrat, let those be dealt by Indian authority. Bangladesh government has nothing doing with the research findings of Indian researchers. There is no scope of entertaining their comments and observations about probable and possible impacts of Rampal power plant on Sundarban mangrove forest as all possible impacts management have been adequately addressed. There is no concern of Mercury emission, no issue with SOX emission causing acid rain, no possibility of ash leakage to the waterway or fugitive emission to the atmosphere, no concern of aquatics impacted from water released from the plant. We have to believe in technology addressing any and all impacts below an acceptable limit.

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Written By Saleque Sufi, an expert in energy sector infrastructure development, planning, construction management and operation in Central and South Asia and Australia, also served as an adviser to the petroleum ministry of Afghanistan.