31/10/2018 – News / Power / Utilities / Sustainability / Biomass / Emissions / NTPC / GlobalData / India

India’s NTPC to use biomass co-firing at power plants is a bid to slash emissions


NTPC – India's largest energy conglomerate – has announced it will use biomass to co-fire all of its coal-based power plants, in what has been described by an industry experts as “a bold move” towards emissions control.


“NTPC’s decision to implement biomass-based co-firing at all its power stations is a bold move that will help in curtailing air pollution,” said Harminder Singh, Power Analyst at GlobalData. “This follows the policy announced by the Ministry of Power in 2017, regarding biomass utilisation for power generation through co-firing in pulverised coal-fired boilers. NTPC has already successfully used a seven-per-cent blend of biomass for co-firing at its Dadri power plant.


With India cities experiencing significant levels of smog in the winter months, it makes sense to co-fire biomass along with coal in the coal-fired power plants, said Mr Singh. “On one hand, it will reduce the emissions from these power plants, and on the other, [it will] reduce the coal requirements of these plants, easing the pressure on coal-sourcing,” he explained.


“NTPC has a total coal-based capacity of more than 40GW – and assuming all its power stations use seven-per-cent biomass blend, the company itself can utilise 10-12 million tonnes of biomass, which is around one-third of the residue burnt,” he continued.


Challenges and opportunities


“However, biomass logistics is a big challenge that has restricted the growth of this industry. The availability of biomass is localised and the economics of transporting biomass work out only over a certain distance. This would therefore work only for power plants located in the vicinity of regions of biomass availability. Furthermore, biomass is spread over multiple farms, making procurement a tough task,” the expert advised.


He continued that NTPC’s existing power plant infrastructure cannot utilise biomass directly, so it will need to be converted into pellets. While this reduces the transportation cost, the pellet manufacturing industry is not well developed in India, he advised. However, that could prove to be an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to enter this industry.


“It will also be important to see how the state electricity regulatory commissions allow for the tariff increase for power plants that use biomass co-firing,” Mr Singh remarked. “The commissions will need to allow compensation in the tariff for increase in cost of generation using pellets, increase in auxiliary power consumption and plant heat rate, etc. If the appropriate compensation is not provided, the power plants will not be incentivised to use biomass.”  

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