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NTPC is running more than a dozen initiatives to get rid of fly ash

Shreya Jai/New Delhi 10 Jan 19 | 09:46 PM

Have an idea on how to utilise the fly ash produced by thermal power plants? NTPC is willing to reward you with up to Rs 13 lakh. It is what India’s largest power producer did last year to get ideas for disposing the 500 million tonnes of ash being generated at its plants.

The company is now running more than a dozen initiatives to get rid of fly ash. The overall ash utilisation is only 57.3 per cent, as of December.

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Of the 167 thermal units monitored by the Central Electricity Authority, 60 have met the 100 per cent ash utilisation target, including seven units of NTPC. There are 35 units under the less than 50 per cent utilisation bracket, with close to 10 units of NTPC.

Three years earlier, when NTPC commenced its first internal restructuring, a separate ‘environment management’ division was formed, under which fly ash management was subsumed. Earlier, it was part of NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam, the power trading arm of the company, to facilitate sale. As demand for fly ash from real estate and the cement sector (it is used in road embankments and other construction), dwindled over the past two years, NTPC has started looking at other ways of utilising it.

In 2009, the Union ministry of environment and forests mandated 100 per cent ash utilisation by thermal power units in five years from the date. And, made it mandatory for power plants to give fly ash free of cost to users within a 300-km radius.

Apart from pollution, fly ash poses other health risks. There have been complaints of lung disease from people living around thermal plants, citing unused ash in open spaces as the cause. The environment ministry also asked for use of ash in back-filling of coal mines in a 50-km radius of thermal plants located near mines. Lack of coordination between the ministry of coal, Coal India, Indian Railways and the power units, has kept the plan in limbo.

NTPC is now in discussion for mine reclamation in Korba and Vindhyachal. It is also developing ash parks at Varanasi, Raipur, Pune and Cuttack, to make it available to ash-based product manufacturing units at these centres.

NTPC executives say the company recently signed an agreement with National Highways Authority of India for supply of ash from its Unchahar, Tanda, Simhadri, Talcher-Kaniha and Farakka units, for use in road construction. It is also running a trial for bulk transportation through inland waterways at Kahalgaon (West Bengal) to cement plants in the northeast states.

A senior NTPC executive said the company was also building fly ash depots on vacant railway land. “We have written to the chairman, Railway Board, that it should give us a rebate in using the land for creating these depots. Discussions are ongoing," he said. Loading facilities, he added, had been created at the Ramagundam, Rihand and Kahalgaon (thermal) units and are being developed at Vindhyachal, Sipat, Mouda and Simhadri. “All upcoming projects will have a rail loading facility for fly ash," said the executive.  

Of the 167 thermal units monitored by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), 60 met the 100 per cent ash utilisation target including seven units of NTPC.

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