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Fueling Security: Coal Gasification for India's Energy Futur



  Mar 09, 2024

Coal Gasification as a Path to Enhancing India’s Energy Security


Introduction

India’s quest for energy security is a critical component of its development narrative. Given the country’s status as the third-largest energy consumer globally, its reliance on energy imports presents a significant vulnerability. Approximately 80% of India’s crude oil needs and 50% of its natural gas requirements are met through imports. Even coal, a resource abundant within the nation, saw a 10% importation rate in the fiscal year 2022-23. This backdrop underscores the urgency for India to diversify and strengthen its energy supply chains.

The Promise of Coal Gasification

The Coal Gasification Scheme, unveiled in the Finance Minister’s budget speech, targets the gasification of 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030. This initiative is poised to revolutionize India’s energy landscape for several reasons:

• Enhanced Efficiency: Coal gasification offers a pathway to more efficient power generation compared to traditional coal-fired plants. By converting coal into synthetic natural gas (SNG), the process facilitates the use of combined cycle power plants, which boast higher efficiencies.

• Versatility of Use: SNG can serve a dual purpose, acting both as a fuel and as a feedstock for manufacturing chemicals, such as ammonia and methanol. This versatility extends the utility of coal beyond mere power generation.

• Infrastructure Integration: The ability to transport coal gas through existing pipeline networks eases logistical challenges and lessens the burden on the nation’s railway system, which traditionally handles coal transportation.

Challenges and Solutions

Historical precedents, notably the underperformance of coal gasification-based fertiliser plants in the 1980s, caution against overoptimism. However, advances in technology and a more strategic approach to plant design and coal quality management present a pathway to overcoming these hurdles. The emphasis on indigenous technology development and the integration of modern coal gasification techniques in new projects underscore a commitment to learning from past experiences.

Strategic Imperatives

For coal gasification to fulfill its potential, a holistic strategy encompassing the following elements is crucial:

1. Optimized Coal Beneficiation: To mitigate the impact of India’s high-ash coal, effective beneficiation processes must be implemented. This involves balancing the removal of excess ash with the economic realities of carbon loss.

2. Stakeholder Engagement: Coal India Ltd (CIL)’s initiative to consult with stakeholders, including potential investors and consumers, is pivotal. Building a robust ecosystem around coal gasification is essential for its success.

3. Government Support: Financial incentives, such as the announced 15% cost support for public and private sector projects, are critical. These measures lower the entry barrier for participation in the coal gasification drive.

Conclusion

Coal gasification represents a strategic lever for India to strengthen its energy security. By leveraging abundant domestic coal reserves more efficiently and sustainably, India can reduce its import dependency and bolster its energy self-reliance. Nonetheless, achieving this vision requires concerted efforts across technological, regulatory, and commercial dimensions to ensure that coal gasification becomes a cornerstone of India’s energy strategy.


SRIRAM'S


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