Asia’s oldest gas-based fertilizer plant at Namrup in upper Assam, about 480 km from here, has seen a ray of hope for revival with Rao Inderjit Singh, Union minister of state for chemicals, fertilizer and planning on Tuesday here assuring the Brahmaputra Valley Fertiliser Corporation Ltd (BVFCL) that the Centre would do the needful to find a PSU to invest in it.
“The only solution at hand is to set up an entirely new plant with fresh investments through the PSU route, and Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilisers (RCF) has already shown interest in equity participation in it,” minister Rao told The Indian Express here on Tuesday.
Minister Singh said he would take up the BVFCL issue at the highest level and ensure that a new plant with 8.64 lakh metric ton per annum capacity was set up through public sector participation. “If BVFCL has to shut down, then it will send negative signals, especially at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken special attention on allround development of Assam and the Northeastern region,” the minister said.
The minister meanwhile assured the BVFCL of releasing Rs 100 crore for revamping the existing two plants till a new factory came up in the next three to four years. “Given the shortfall of urea in the country, and given the committed quantity of natural gas at cheap rate in Assam, a new plant is a must for Namrup,” minister Singh said.
While the country’s first gas-based fertiliser plant was set up at Namrup in the early 1960s by the Fertiliser Corporation of India, the Namrup plants were bifurcated from the former’s successor Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Ltd (HFCL) in 2002 to constitute the BVFCL in 2002. The existing plants – Namrup-2 and Namrup-3 – which have already surpassed their general chemical plant life, however are sill running despite the technology getting obsolete and spare parts becoming increasingly unavailable.
“The Union cabinet had in May 2015 cleared a proposal for reviving BVFCL as a joint venture through PPP mode, with 48 per cent for the promoter and 52 per cent for open bidding through request for quotation. But even as two companies, the Adani Group and GSFC had shown initial interest, they finally did not submit their bids, prompting the government to take the PSU route,” BVFCL CMD SD Singh said.
Though there is an assured supply of 1.95 MMSCMD natural gas from Oil India Ltd, the existing Namrup-2 and Namrup-3 plants have been running at an average of 80 per cent of their installed capacity, with CMD Singh saying this was mainly due to the age factor of the two units. “The average life of any chemical plant is 15 to 20 years. But Namrup-2 has been running for 30 years now,” he said.
“With the present quantity of assured natural gas available, a new factory with the latest state-of-the art technology will enable us to easily produce double the total present production of 3.9 lakh metric tons per annum,” CMD Singh said.