In an attempt to revive the Rs9,000-crore Talcher fertiliser plant in Odisha, the Indian government has turned to Lurgi Technology Co. SA’s coal gasification technology.
While gas produced from coal gasification is to be used as fuel for fertiliser production, no technology partner has been found for it.
The fertiliser ministry has now decided to run a pilot test project for coal gasification using indigenous coal at Jindal Steel and Power Ltd’s (JSPL) Angul direct-reduced iron (DRI) plant. The plant uses Lurgi’s technology to produce gas from a mix of imported and domestic coal. If found technically and financially viable, Lurgi’s technology can be used for the revival of the Talcher project.
DRI, popularly known as sponge iron, is produced by using gas to reduce oxygen content from iron ore.
Even as Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government is pulling out all stops to ensure that farmers get a regular supply of fertilisers, the Talcher project has hit the skids with project consultant SBI Capital Markets Ltd raising doubts over its feasibility, as reported by VCCircle on 12 April.
“The government has decided to conduct pilot tests for coal gasification at JSPL’s Angul unit on the basis of 100% Talcher coal of high-ash content as well as blending 70% Talcher coal with 30% better quality coal from Coal India Ltd’s Raniganj fields,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
The government had earlier requested Naveen Jindal-promoted JSPL to share its experiences with the processes used at the company’s Angul plant.
“In order to find better and accurate results, pilot tests will be undertaken for five days with 100% high ash coal while another five days with blended coal,” said another government official who also didn’t want to be identified.
In December 2014, a consortium of four state-run units including GAIL (India) Ltd, Coal India Ltd, Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd (RCF) and Fertilizer Corp. of India Ltd signed an agreement to set up a coal gasification-cum-fertiliser plant at Talcher.
While experts believe that washed Talcher coal will be fit for the coal gasification process, they have raised doubts over usage of coal from Raniganj in West Bengal.
According to U.S. Jha, former chairman and managing director of RCF, coal from Raniganj fields may have a mere 5% less ash content compared with Talcher, and more importantly it is a depleting mine as most of the coal may have been taken out already.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons of fertiliser ministry and JSPL on 28 April remained unanswered. Lurgi Technology Co. couldn’t be immediately contacted.
“Lurgi Technology company had already qualified as a preferred bidder for the coal gasification technology, but it has not been selected as of now as questions had been raised over the viability of the project,” a third government official requesting anonymity said. He added that the impasse over the revival of Talcher project will be over in few months.
This comes in the backdrop of the government exploring the revival of closed fertiliser units at Barauni and Gorakhpur by Maharatna public sector units such as Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd, NTPC Ltd and Coal India.
India’s demand for urea in 2015 was 31 million tonnes (MT) out of which around 8 MT was imported mainly from China and Iran during the financial year ended 31 March 2016.