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BHEL, NTPC likely to join hands for IGCC project

M. Ramesh

TIRUCHI, April 7

BHARAT Heavy Electrical Ltd's 100-MW IGCC power project, which the PSU is likely to put up in collaboration with National Thermal Power Corporation, may still be on the drawing board but the proposal itself is being seen as an achievement.

For, the proposal puts to rest a behind-the-scenes battle between the two PSU giants. While BHEL, which has been running a 6.2-MW demonstration plant at its Tiruchirapalli unit for a decade, wanted NTPC to source the IGCC technology from it, NTPC was looking for an overseas source of technology.

(The `integrated gasification combined cycle' (IGCC) technology basically converts coal into gas, which is fed into gas turbines. The flue gases that come out of the turbines are used to generate steam, which again is used to produce power. This technology is said to be the cutting-edge in clean coal technologies. It also gives higher thermal efficiency or more power per tonne of coal than conventional plants.)

While the BHEL top brass never spoke about this, officials down the line had often expressed their dismay over NTPC looking for foreign partners. The bitterness was palpable. BHEL's officials suggested that if NTPC sourced the IGCC technology from abroad, it would land itself in a mess because "what do the foreign fellows know about how to handle Indian coals?"

But now it looks like NTPC would join hands with its PSU sister to do the project, thanks to a good word from the Government of India. It is understood that a meeting was convened recently by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, Dr R. Chidambaram, during which both the PSUs were asked to examine the prospects of putting up the project jointly. A subcommittee has been formed with the mandate of going into the techno-economic feasibility.

But BHEL officials are confident that if NTPC would go in for an IGCC plant, it would be only with BHEL's technology. The plant is coming up at Dadri, and would cost about Rs 600 crore. "It will happen in a year's time," the Executive Director of BHEL, Tiruchirapalli, Mr Arun Kumar Mathur, told journalists here over the weekend.

The officials said it would have been difficult for BHEL to put up such a project entirely on its own, assuming all the risk. Hence, some company like NTPC was needed. But once this prototype is demonstrated to be successful, interest from other power utilities would perk up, they said.

A number of oil refineries are interested in IGCC plants to produce clean power using petroleum residue. Mr Mathur said BHEL's technology could be extended or adapted to refinery residue, which is basically petroleum coke. However, he said it would be sensible to go in for an atmospheric fluidised combustion bed boiler for a power plant that uses pet coke as fuel.

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