Last week, Odisha’s Talcher fertiliser plant was awarded a contract for starting a coal gasification unit for the production of urea and Ammonia. It was part of the government’s initiative to revive closed fertiliser plants belonging to the Fertiliser Corporation of India Limited (FCIL) and the Hindustan Fertilisers Corporation Ltd (HFCL).
According to a press release by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, the decision is geared towards reducing India’s reliance on imports and helping the country meet its CoP-21 Paris Agreement commitments.
What is coal gasification, the project at Talcher?
Coal gasification is the process of converting coal into synthesis gas (also called syngas), which is a mixture of hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The syngas can be used in a variety of applications such as in the production of electricity and making chemical products, such as fertilisers.
According to the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Systems Analysis Programme (ETSAP), the coal gasification process holds good potential in the future, with coal being the most abundantly available fossil fuel across the world, and that even low-grade coal can be used in the process.
The website of Talcher Fertilisers Limited says the Fertiliser Corporation of India Ltd (FCIL) first began producing urea and ammonia at the Odisha plant in 1980. However, frequent power restrictions, technology mismatch, and precarious steam balance forced the plant to eventually cease operations. Then in 2007, the government decided to revive the FCIL’s defunct plants, and the Talcher Fertilisers Limited (TFL) was started in 2014 as a consortium of state-run companies GAIL, CIL, RCF and FCIL under the same effort.
Reducing energy imports, boosting Make in India, environment-friendly
According to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, urea is currently produced using pooled natural gas, which comprises of both domestic natural gas and imported LNG. The usage of locally available coal for making fertilisers would help reduce the import of LNG, the Ministry said.
The Ministry also said that India currently imports 50 to 70 lakh tonnes of urea every year, and that the revival of the units would help increase the availability of domestically produced fertilisers. The Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers D V Sadananda Gowda said that the project would generate direct and indirect employment of around 4,500 people.
The press release added that the project’s environment-friendliness would help India in meeting its commitments under the CoP-21 Paris Agreement.