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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Thermal power plants in Tamil Nadu emit more toxic gases than permissible: Study

The high levels of toxic gases being emitted by the thermal power plants have caused an irreparable damage to the environment, the study said.

By: Express Web Desk | Chennai |
Updated: October 27, 2021 2:12:17 pm
The study found that many thermal plants did not have the flue gas desulfuriser (FGD) device, to monitor and control the quantity of toxic gases released from the plants. (Representational)

The thermal power plants of Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd (TANGEDCO) NLC India Ltd and NTPC Ltd are emitting toxic gases that are over the permissible limits, a study done by Poovulagin Nanbargal reveals.

The high levels of toxic gases being emitted by the thermal power plants have caused irreparable damage to the environment, the study by the environmental non-government organisation (NGO)said.

The report ‘Emission Watch-Status assessment of SO2 emissions and Flue Gas Desulfuriser (FGD) installation for coal-based power plants in Tamil Nadu,’ was prepared by Poovualgin Nanbargal along with CREA (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air) and ASER.

A survey was conducted on the quantity of toxic gases released from the thermal power plants in Tamil Nadu and the NGO identified the number of power plants that have a Flue Gas Desulfuriser (FGD) device to monitor and control the quantity of toxic gases released from the plants.

The study was based on data obtained under the Right to Information Act, from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s Online Continuous Emission Monitoring System (OCEMS), the Central Pollution Control Board, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, NLC India and NTPC.

The study found that many thermal plants did not have the FGD device, to monitor and control the quantity of toxic gases released from the plants. It also said that there was a lack of will to cut air pollution.

According to the study, only two units (1,200 MW) out of 40 operational units (13,160 MW) in Tamil Nadu have installed the FGD as of August 2021. Another 8 units (3,950 MW) have awarded the bids for FGD installation, essentially leaving 30 units (8,810 MW) out of 40 without any significant progress towards installing FGDs. None of the state sector units as well as NLC-owned power plants have awarded the tenders yet.

The reactive gases such as Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and NOx react with other gases and materials, and turn into secondary particles to form a major portion of particulate matter (PM.s), which is a globally known health hazard, the study revealed.

The study also showed that there were discrepancies between the data provided on the TNPCB website and the data available under the RTI received in April, May and June 2021. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) levels were shown to be very low even when air pollution control equipment was not fitted, according to documents obtained from the TNPCB under the RTI Act, the study said.

“Tamil Nadu has more than 7.5 GW coal-based thermal power plants under various stages of construction which will further add to the surplus capacity that is actually not required at this point and will ultimately lead to wastage of public money and Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the power sector,” the study said.

“If the Pollution Outcome Measurement issued by the Department of Environment in 2015 had been implemented, Sulphur dioxide emissions should have been within the range of 600 mg / Nm3, 200 mg / Nm3, 100 mg / Nm3, depending on the size and year the power plant was installed,” the study said.

“Implementation of emission standards for coal-based power plants as notified in 2015 can save 76,000 lives every year,” the study said.

The study concluded that the power surplus and overcapacity situation in the state is “acute in nature consequently leading to sub-optimal utilisation of the existing assets.”

This might be a hindrance to the aggressive renewable energy integration due to limited financial resources being available for the power sector and poor planning, it said.

“While the energy transition is unfolding in the state it is also crucial to reduce the environmental footprint and health burden from the existing power plants,” the study said.

In the end, the study said that the solution was to reduce air pollution to “Rationalise power generation sources, stop further financial investments for coal-based power infrastructure, Ensure aggressive shut down of old, polluting units, Rationalise the power purchase agreements to reduce fixed cost burdens.” The study also recommended to stop all proposed, under-construction power plants at the initial stages and ensuring that the FGD and NOx reduction technologies are installed at all operational coal-based power generation units in the state.

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