Combating Emissions

New norms call for an increased role of environmental control systems

India has emerged as an attractive investment destination amid global slowdown as it overtakes China to become the fastest growing economy in the world. A series of structural reforms and mega initiatives like “Make in India” have been successful in garnering interest from the global investor community. As India moves ahead to become the manufacturing hub of the world, it will lead to the creation of a favourable environment for the growth of new industries, generation of better job opportunities, and sustainable factory output.

India and emissions

India houses 17 per cent of the world population and this sizeable number is putting enormous pressure on all its natural resources. India becoming a growth engine is likely to come at a huge environmental cost.

The government’s seriousness in tackling this issue was evident in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s draft on emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants released last year. The draft made it mandatory for thermal power plants to reduce particulate emissions from new plants by 25 per cent, sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 90 per cent, NOx emissions by 70 per cent and mercury emissions by 75 per cent. At present, there are no standards for emissions in the thermal power sector. As per the draft, the plants that were established after 2003 will need to meet stringent standards, while plants older than 2003 will be required to comply with more relaxed norms. The particulate emission norm for an average Indian power plant is 150 milligram per normal cubic metre (mg per Nm3). Under the proposed standards, a plant installed in 2017 will have to reduce particulate emissions by 80 per cent to meet the standard of 30 mg per Nm3.

It calls for an increased role of scientific and technological know-how in creating systems that can help reduce the carbon footprint of individuals and corporations without compromising on efficiency to maintain the optimum output.

The counter measures that have been taken in the past have been far from satisfactory. However, a number of big polluting plants in India – from power and steel to cement and chemicals  – have now put in place environmental control systems (ECSs) to curb the emission of harmful waste including gases and solids.

ECS: The missing link

ECS is deployed to control emissions and temperature; filter air to ensure high quality and clear it of all harmful gases and particulate matter; control humidity; and maintain specific pressure. These systems have also found useful applications in various industries such as aviation, power, petrochemicals, cement, pulp and paper, and iron and steel.

Industrial processes often involve the use of various chemicals and minerals including heavy metals like mercury on raw materials as well as finishing agents. The improper handling or usage of chemicals and minerals may lead to the release of pollutants like carbon monoxide and SO2. Inefficient processes and use of old plants and machinery also lead to the emission of harmful gases in the atmosphere. Operating industrial equipment and machinery requires a huge amount of power, which is generated by either burning coal or diesel in a generating unit, thus increasing the carbon footprint.

ECS can curb emissions and the resultant carbon footprint in several ways. In coal- and oil-based power plants, for example, the deployment of ECS helps improve overall plant efficiency, ensures reliable and clean fossil fuel combustion, and reduces emissions from the combustion process. By increasing the efficiency of the plant and optimising fuel consumption, ECS helps produce maximum power from the available fuel. This effectively brings down the use of fossil fuel for power generation.

Particulate matter management, mercury control for coal, oil or gas fired plants, and air quality control systems are some of the key components of ECS. The air quality control systems filter poisonous gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, dioxins and furans, and carbon monoxide as well as particulate matter and heavy metals including mercury.

In our effort to combat emissions and reduce the carbon footprint, an efficient and well-designed ECS has become the most important tool to combat pollution and the consequent health hazards. While India has committed to provide “power to all”, stringent regulations with mandatory installation of an ECS must ensure that this growth does not come at the cost of environment. The damage from greenhouse gases has already reached alarming proportions and the impact can be seen across the country with erratic rainfall, rising temperatures, drought and mild winters. While progress and prosperity are a must for our country, so is the need to reduce the growing carbon footprint. Else, we may soon reach a point where aspirations will cease to exist.

By Alain Spohr, Country Leader Steam Power Systems, India, GE

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