NTPC snubs foreign emissions tech worth $2 billion

India has some of the worst levels of pollution in the world, and has repeatedly missed deadlines to clean up its network of coal-fired power plants.( AFP)
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Updated 20 December 2019

NTPC snubs foreign emissions tech worth $2 billion

  • NTPC ran pilot tests on filtering equipment made by GE, others
  • Said technology not suitable for power plants in India

NEW DELHI: Top Indian electricity generator NTPC has rejected the emissions-cutting technology of US giant General Electric Co (GE) and other foreign firms for its coal-fired plants, documents show, shutting them out of an estimated $2 billion in orders.

Despite struggling with some of the world’s worst air pollution levels, India has already pushed back a deadline to cut emissions to 2022, after extensive lobbying by power producers who cited high costs and technical difficulties.

The rejection of the foreign technology comes at a time when over half of the coal-fired plants in India are already set to miss a phased deadline, starting this month, to cut emissions of lung disease-causing sulfur oxides.

State-run NTPC, which generates a quarter of India’s electricity, held talks with foreign firms including GE, Norway-based Yara International and Japan-based Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems over the potential purchase of filters that lower emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxide.

However, none of the pilot tests it conducted met key emissions parameters, NTPC said in a presentation submitted last month to the Central Pollution Control Board.

“The pilot tests concluded that both selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technologies currently available are not suitable for installation at power plants in India,” it said in the presentation reviewed by Reuters, referring to technologies used to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Thermal power companies produce three-quarters of the country’s electricity and account for some 80 percent of India’s industrial emissions of sulfur oxides that cause lung diseases and smog-creating nitrogen oxides.

NTPC had presented cost estimates in 2016 for the installation of the technology to cut nitrogen oxides throughout its network of power plants. According to Reuters calculations based on those estimates, the cost would total $2.4 billion, although industry consultants said recently that those costs could now be 25 percent lower.

The utility wants a dilution in nitrogen oxide emissions standards and claimed in last month’s presentation that the lowered standards can be achieved with minor retrofits, without the need to install new equipment.

The pollution board held a stakeholder meeting on Nov. 7, an audio recording of which was reviewed by Reuters. In the meeting, GE and Yara representatives rejected NTPC’s views, saying their technologies were proven worldwide, according to the recording and two sources present at the meeting. NTPC did not attend the meeting.

NTPC, and the Indian units of GE and Yara did not respond to detailed Reuters questionnaires seeking comment. Mitsubishi Hitachi did not immediately respond to a request for comment made on its website.

NTPC said in the earlier presentation to the pollution board that high ash content in Indian coal posed challenges to installing SCR technology and that SNCR did not meet key parameters.

The foreign companies responded, saying pilot tests were run in a constrained environment and that commercial use of the equipment, which requires some changes to the plant, would cut emissions to the required levels.

“The conditions for the (pilot) test was that we can’t touch special parts at all, we can’t touch furnace tubes. NTPC did not allow us,” Senthilvel Rangasamy, a GE representative, said in the meeting.

Premchand Talreja, the managing director of the Indian unit of Yara, said the pilot tests achieved the desired results.

“There should not be doubt on the technology itself,” Talreja said in the meeting.

Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air and previously a member of a European Union technical working group on emissions by coal-fired utilities, said India has failed to curtail emissions due to “delay and misinformation tactics by the power industry.”

“The power industry managed to build a myth that Indian coal is so special that technologies proven on a wide range of coal types elsewhere need to be tested and validated again in India before the standards can be implemented,” Myllyvirta told Reuters.


Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

Updated 27 September 2020

Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

  • Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output

DUBAI: Tunisia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and is expected to decline further before 2020 ends.

Tourist activity has shrunk by 60 percent, the country’s tourism minister Habib Ammar said, and that figure could reach 70 percent to reflect the World Tourism Organization’s estimate for global tourism.

Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output and is the country’s second biggest employer, with around 400,000 people involved in the industry, after the agricultural sector.

The number of tourists rose 13.6 percent to 9.5 million in 2019, a record level, but Tunisia’s 10-million-visitor target for this year was sidelined when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Despite this quandary, the government is considering various proposals to help stakeholders in the sector, state news agency TAP reported.

A gradual recovery of tourism activity will be recorded next year, both worldwide and nationwide, ensuring that the tourist units that will be preserved will have the capacity to accommodate tourists, it added.

Ammar also said that government remains committed to implement support plans such as the rescheduling of the settlement of bank and social security fund debts, and extending credits over longer repayment periods.

The tourism ministry is working with all intervening parties to implement this measure, which will make it possible to provide liquidity to the tourist units, and consequently, to guarantee a better future for the tourist activity, he added.

“This will also allow the ministry to develop a strategy and a clear plan for the sector in the medium and long term.”