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Tata power plant’s plan to switch to coal as fuel hits NGT hurdle

Tribunal issues notices to MoEF, MPCB for granting clearance that Chembur residents say will cause more pollution.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
September 23, 2014 12:37:02 am

Hopes that Tata Power Company will be able to soon enhance its thermal power production in the city are now in serious doubt with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) having ordered notices to be issued to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and to other agencies for granting environmental clearance for a change of fuel at the Trombay Thermal Power Station’s Unit 6.

The change of fuel was from LSHS/LSFO (Low sulphur Heavy Stock/Low Sulphur Fuel Oil) to imported coal, considered a more polluting fuel.

Tata Power Company Limited had made an application for the modernisation of its existing 500 MW Unit No 6 at Trombay Thermal Power Station (TTPS) involving permissions for change of fuel.

In November 2013, an Expert Appraisal Committee (Thermal) of the MoEF considered granted the green clearances, subject to conditions.

Residents subsequently challenged this before the NGT, which, in an order dated September 20 this year, said notices should be issued to the government agencies and also to National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), which conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment.

The NGT bench, comprising Justice V R Kingaonkar and Dr Ajay Deshpande, was hearing an appeal from members of the Chembur Citizens’ Forum opposing the clearances granted on the grounds that the change in fuel would cause immense pollution, environmental problems and would severely affect the health of residents.

Unit 6 of the TTPS is a multi-fire unit that can currently operate only on oil and gas. Tata Power has proposed modernisation of the Unit, which will also enable coal firing. Asked why permissions were sought to change the fuel to coal, the Tata Power Company responded with a statement saying the unavailability of natural gas had made the unit dependent on oil. “However, a shortage of low sulphur oil from local refineries and spiralling prices of oil and gas have resulted in a significant escalation in the absolute cost of power generation from this Unit. Consequently, this 500 MW Unit has been operating at around 50% Plant Load Factor for the past two years and this has necessitated modernisation of the unit for optimum utilization of existing power generation infrastructure,” the statement said.

However, residents allege that their objections to the project were not considered and that the change in fuel went against earlier affidavits submitted by the company to the Bombay HC.

“During the public hearing, several residents raised objections but these numbers were understated before the EAC, which considered the project,” the forum said.

Residents also allege that mangrove land could be diverted for an outfall. One of the conditions imposed by the MoEF is the installation of a Fuel-Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) unit. The residents’ affidavit says diversion of mangrove land would be essential for setting up an outfall point for the FGD unit, something the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority has not given approval for.

The company did not comment on this but has assured that the project will not result in additional pollution. “In addition to using low sulphur high calorific value imported coal, FGD is also being installed. Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) are also being set up to prevent particulate matter from escaping into the environment. The dust emission by coal will be sustainably suppressed by using recycled water, while an enclosed unloading system will be used to minimize dust emission. The proposed modernisation of Unit 6 will result in lower tariffs for Mumbai consumers,” said the statement.

The matter is scheduled for the next hearing on October 13.

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