Biomass cofiring a solution to stubble burning and a gamechanger for thermal power plants

India is the third largest power producer in the world, with a production of 118882 GWh in July 2022, out of which 50.7% is generated by coal. In order to control carbon emissions and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, India is also focusing on other methods like biomass cofiring. When the biomass is blended with coal to generate power, it is known as biomass cofiring. Net zero emission means reducing emissions as close to zero as possible, which can be accomplished through techniques such as biomass cofiring. India is a land of agriculture, so the produced waste is very massive (6000 million tons per year), which is not utilised properly, so people burn that residue to get rid of it, which causes a high emission of carbon into the atmosphere. 
In November 2017, the government of India advised the utilisation of biomass in coal-based thermal power plants (except ball and tube mill ) to use a 5–10% blend of biomass pellets primarily made-up of agricultural residue To reduce stubble burning and reduce the carbon footprints of thermal power plants, the Ministry of Power set up a National Mission on Use of Biomass in Thermal Power Plants (renamed as SAMARTH). which results in about 80525 MT of biomass having been cofired in 35 thermal power plants with a cumulative capacity of 55335 MW till July 2022. Of these 35 thermal power plants, 24 belong to NTPC and the remaining 21 are from the states and private sectors, which reduced the CO2 footprint by 1 lakh MT.
India’s electricity is majorly dependent on coal, and shortage of coal is the biggest problem for the power plants. The import price of coal is higher, so India is also looking towards self-reliance in energy and wants to reduce its dependency on the import of coal. To reduce imports of coal without compromising the quality of energy standards, the technical parameters are specified by the government of India that the acceptable calorific value of the pellet is 3600–4500 kcal/kg, which is quite similar to the coal’s calorific value. To prepare pellets from agricultural residue, it will take approximately nine months, after which it will be supplied to the thermal power plants. And the pellets' total cost ( residue cost + storage cost + processing cost + transport cost + loading/unloading cost) is about 2942–6626 INR/ton, which makes the biomass pellet more reliable than coal.
Biomass cofiring is in its initial phase in India. The blending of biomass (5-10%) is quite low in FY 2022. If India succeeds in generating electricity by using biomass pellets in a few years, it will lead to a drastic change in the power sector.


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