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Co-processing of alternate fuels

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The absence of necessary infrastructure to support co-processing is one of the main reasons of its slow growth in India. There is thus, an urgent need for stakeholders to come together and evolve a national strategy and a time bound programme for building up the infrastructure, writes SP Deolalkar.

The Indian cement industry, Number Two in the world, is modern technology-wise, and efficient in terms of energy consumption. It is consciously taking steps to bring down CO2 emissions. As a part of this effort, India has taken up co-processing of Alternate Fuels (AF) but the overall rate of substitution is very low, just about one per cent. Technologies for using various types of AFs are available and have been successfully used elsewhere with substitution rates as high 30 – 40 per cent in European countries. Absence of necessary infrastructure to support co processing is the main reason of its slow growth in India.

Volume of AFs required

Installed capacity for and actual production of cement in India is 330 and 250 mtpa respectively. About 75 per cent cements produced are blended cements. With a clinker/cement ratio of ~ 0.72, clinker production would be ~ 180 mtpa requiring 38 – 40 mtpa of raw coal. If only ten per cent of it is replaced by AF, requirement of AF would be say 3.5 – 4 mtpa. Thus, there is tremendous scope for development of AFs as a viable industry in itself. Various aspects of co-processing AFs have been brought out in the author’s book ‘Designing Green Cement Plants in Section 4, devoted to AFR.

Need for infrastructure

The simple reason for the need for infrastructure is to create an environment where wastes with potential as fuels (AFs) would be continuously available to cement companies preferably in ready to use form. Incidentally, using coal also requires infrastructure and processing to be able to fire it in kilns and calciners. Historically, cement companies have taken on themselves this responsibility.

In contrast to coal, AFs come from a vast number of sources, are spread over a wide territory and differ greatly in properties and availability. Identified as wastes till now, it is necessary to begin at the beginning when planning to convert them into fuels and using them. Processing required to be done varies greatly from one type of AF to the other.

Co-processing replaces fossil fuel by say, a maximum 40 per cent. A cement plant is therefore required to process two types of fuels- sometimes three – if it is required to use two types of AFs as their continuous availability is not assured as of now. Hence investments in machinery and buildings for processing AFs are considered risky. For these reasons, cement companies would prefer buying the AF that can be delivered on their doorstep in ready to use form. This in turn implies outsourcing of this activity which is a new feature. Creating such supporting facilities means creating infrastructure. An appropriate example of an infrastructure created to meet the needs of the society is ‘AMUL’.

Infrastructure required for AFs

The concept of using wastes on a large scale itself being new, there is not much information on their properties, sources and locations. Infrastructure would therefore comprise of:

  • Compilation of data in the form of a directory of wastes and potential AFs among them.
  • Testing the more promising among them for determining various aspects of burning them as fuels. Pilot plant tests on the selected AFs.
  • Setting up agencies which would do handling and processing of AFs and would supply them on a commercial scale to cement (or any other) industry continuously.

Directory of wastes and their potential

The first step in the build-up of infrastructure would be to collect categorical data on wastes that could be AFs. Such data would classify wastes and other non conventional sources of fuel according to their properties, heat value, sources, locations, availability and volume/ quantity.

Such data supplemented by maps showing locations would be very useful to potential users.

Refer to the map which is similar to maps of Geological Survey of India for mineral wealth of the country.

Often this is the starting point for location of a green field cement plant. Such data should be collected on a national level and should be available for all industries and for uses other than burning also.

Research on wastes as fuels

The next step on a national scale would be to have a fuel research institute that would carry out detailed research on every aspect of combustion of likely AFs such as products of combustion, gases emitted and ashes produced. In making cement, ashes enter clinker produced. Some wastes give away harmful compounds like NOx , dioxins, heavy metals. It is important to know about them before beginning to use them on a large scale. The Central Fuel Research Institute can be one such institute and should play an important role. If not equipped now, it should be strengthened and expanded by opening branches to serve the country as a whole.

Pilot plant tests

The next step in use of AFs would be to carry out pilot plant tests in a set up that simulates actual operating conditions. All aspects of co-processing that would influence regular operation and quality of product and emissions into the environment should be carefully observed and monitored. The tests would bring out aspects like efficiency of combustion, and the extent to which AF could replace fossil fuel. They would be the basis for designing of the system for co-processing in a real plant.

Such pilot plant tests assume great significance as their results would be the basis for approval and permission for co-processing on commercial scale continuously, by government agencies like Bureau of Indian Standards and Pollution Control Boards who would be invited to witness the tests. There are only a limited number of institutions that are equipped to carry out such pilot plant tests like for example NCCBM and CRS of ACC.

Since the requirements of pilot tests would increase with number of users and types of AFs, facilities in these institutes should be made available to other cement companies, say at cost. It should not be necessary to invent the wheel every time. Tests carried out on a given type of AF, if successful should be acceptable for that type as such.

Infrastructure for bringing AFs in ready to use form

This would be regional and product-wise. It has two main constituents:

  • Collection and transport of wastes to the processor and transport of processed AF to users like cement companies.
  • Processors of wastes who receive, store, blend and process wastes as per the requirements of users.

Transport can be within a state or interstate. Transporters may specialise in transporting specific types of AFs like, sludges, hazardous wastes, MSW, etc. That is because the transporting vehicles would have to be designed to suit wastes and AFs carried. Wastes occur all over the country but certain types of waste are predominant in specific regions. Their volume could also be large enough. In that case there can be more than one Intermediate Service Provider (ISP) or processor for one type of AF. It can be the other way round also; depending on relative locations of, processors and users, supply of processed AF can be within state or interstate. A processor may prefer to deal with one or say up to three types of wastes as different wastes require different facilities for handling, storing and processing for turning them into ready for use AFs.

A very important aspect of service to be rendered as supplier of AFs is the control on quality. It begins at the origin. Only those wastes which conform to the representative character established in research stations would be lifted. At the processor’s premises, it will be necessary to blend wastes as they may be from different sources from time to time or would differ in quality from same source to ensure uniformity of quality.

The processor has therefore to equip himself with necessary testing equipment to satisfy himself and his clients about the quality. He should have equipment that would do pre blending.

If the processor is thus equipped with facilities for testing at all stages of processing, the users do not have to duplicate them in their respective factory premises.

Processors will maintain stocks of wastes for processing and also stocks of processed AFs to be able to maintain continuity of supply of AFs to clients. That such an infrastructure is feasible and is beneficial to all stakeholders has been amply demonstrated by Gujarat Environment Protection Industries (GEPIL) located at Surat. There is an urgent need for many more Processors / ISPs like them if co-processing is to be speeded up.

Advantages of infrastructure

The availability of infrastructure/s as explained above has several advantages. Wastes having potential as AFs would be removed as and when generated. Societies would have cleaner environment. Processors contribute greatly in creating value for wastes by converting them into AFs and AFs would most certainly be cheaper than fossil fuels. The cement industry would thus save fossil fuels and bring down CO2 emissions further.

Conclusion

There is an urgent need for stakeholders to come together and evolve a national strategy and a time- bound programme for building up infrastructure. Generators and users can come together to form sister companies or subsidiaries that could be the processors or ISPs.

Consultants and machinery designers should join to evolve tailor made systems for co-processing different types of AFs. Once the infrastructure is in position, MoEF can stipulate minimum per cent of AF by way of co-processing.

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Indian cement industry is well known for its energy and natural resource efficiency

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Dr Hitesh Sukhwal, Deputy General Manager – Environment, Udaipur Cement Works Limited (UCWL) takes us through the multifaceted efforts that the company has undertaken to keep emissions in check with the use of alternative sources of energy and carbon capture technology.

Tell us about the policies of your organisation for the betterment of the environment.
Caring for people is one of the core values of our JK Lakshmi Cement Limited. We strongly believe that we all together can make a difference. In all our units, we have taken measures to reduce carbon footprint, emissions and minimise the use of natural resources. Climate change and sustainable development are major global concerns. As a responsible corporate, we are committed with and doing consistent effort small or big to preserve and enrich the environment in and around our area of operations.
As far as environmental policies are concerned, we are committed to comply with all applicable laws, standards and regulations of regulatory bodies pertaining to the environment. We are consistently making efforts to integrate the environmental concerns into the mainstream of the operations. We are giving thrust upon natural resource conservation like limestone, gypsum, water and energy. We are utilising different kinds of alternative fuels and raw materials. Awareness among the employees and local people on environmental concerns is an integral part of our company. We are adopting best environmental practices aligned with sustainable development goals.
Udaipur Cement Works Limited is a subsidiary of the JK Lakshmi Cement Limited. Since its inception, the company is committed towards boosting sustainability through adopting the latest art of technology designs, resource efficient equipment and various in-house innovations. We are giving thrust upon renewable and clean energy sources for our cement manufacturing. Solar Power and Waste Heat Recovery based power are our key ingredients for total power mix.

What impact does cement production have on the environment? Elaborate the major areas affected.
The major environmental concern areas during cement production are air emissions through point and nonpoint sources due to plant operation and emissions from mining operation, from material transport, carbon emissions through process, transit, noise pollution, vibration during mining, natural resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and change in landscape.
India is the second largest cement producer in the world. The Indian cement industry is well known for its energy and natural resource efficiency worldwide. The Indian cement industry is a frontrunner for implementing significant technology measures to ensure a greener future.
The cement industry is an energy intensive and significant contributor to climate change. Cement production contributes greenhouse gases directly and indirectly into the atmosphere through calcination and use of fossil fuels in an energy form. The industry believes in a circular economy by utilising alternative fuels for making cement. Cement companies are focusing on major areas of energy efficiency by adoption of technology measures, clinker substitution by alternative raw material for cement making, alternative fuels and green and clean energy resources. These all efforts are being done towards environment protection and sustainable future.
Nowadays, almost all cement units have a dry manufacturing process for cement production, only a few exceptions where wet manufacturing processes are in operation. In the dry manufacturing process, water is used only for the purpose of machinery cooling, which is recirculated in a closed loop, thus, no polluted water is generated during the dry manufacturing process.
We should also accept the fact that modern life is impossible without cement. However, through state-of-the-art technology and innovations, it is possible to mitigate all kinds of pollution without harm to the environment and human beings.

Tell us about the impact blended cement creates on the environment and emission rate.
Our country started cement production in 1914. However, it was introduced in the year 1904 at a small scale, earlier. Initially, the manufacturing of cement was only for Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). In the 1980s, the production of blended cement was introduced by replacing fly ash and blast furnace slag. The production of blended cement increased in the growth period and crossed the 50 per cent in the year 2004.
The manufacturing of blended cement results in substantial savings in the thermal and electrical energy consumption as well as saving of natural resources. The overall consumption of raw materials, fossil fuel such as coal, efficient burning and state-of-the-art technology in cement plants have resulted in the gradual reduction of emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). Later, the production of blended cement was increased in manifolds.
If we think about the growth of blended cement in the past few decades, we can understand how much quantity of , (fly ash and slag) consumed and saved natural resources like limestone and fossil fuel, which were anyhow disposed of and harmed the environment. This is the reason it is called green cement. Reduction in the clinker to cement ratio has the second highest emission reduction potential i.e., 37 per cent. The low carbon roadmap for cement industries can be achieved from blended cement. Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC), Portland Slag Cement (PSC) and Composite Cement are already approved by the National Agency BIS.
As far as kilogram CO2 per ton of cement emission concerns, Portland Slag Cement (PSC) has a larger potential, other than PPC, Composite Cement etc. for carbon emission reduction. BIS approved 60 per cent slag and 35 per cent clinker in composition of PSC. Thus, clinker per centage is quite less in PSC composition compared to other blended cement. The manufacturing of blended cement directly reduces thermal and process emissions, which contribute high in overall emissions from the cement industry, and this cannot be addressed through adoption of energy efficiency measures.
In the coming times, the cement industry must relook for other blended cement options to achieve a low carbon emissions road map. In near future, availability of fly ash and slag in terms of quality and quantity will be reduced due to various government schemes for low carbon initiatives viz. enhance renewable energy sources, waste to energy plants etc.
Further, it is required to increase awareness among consumers, like individual home builders or large infrastructure projects, to adopt greener alternatives viz. PPC and PSC for more sustainable
resource utilisation.

What are the decarbonising efforts taken by your organisation?
India is the world’s second largest cement producer. Rapid growth of big infrastructure, low-cost housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna), smart cities project and urbanisation will create cement demand in future. Being an energy intensive industry, we are also focusing upon alternative and renewable energy sources for long-term sustainable business growth for cement production.
Presently, our focus is to improve efficiency of zero carbon electricity generation technology such as waste heat recovery power through process optimisation and by adopting technological innovations in WHR power systems. We are also increasing our capacity for WHR based power and solar power in the near future. Right now, we are sourcing about 50 per cent of our power requirement from clean and renewable energy sources i.e., zero carbon electricity generation technology. Usage of alternative fuel during co-processing in the cement manufacturing process is a viable and sustainable option. In our unit, we are utilising alternative raw material and fuel for reducing carbon emissions. We are also looking forward to green logistics for our product transport in nearby areas.
By reducing clinker – cement ratio, increasing production of PPC and PSC cement, utilisation of alternative raw materials like synthetic gypsum/chemical gypsum, Jarosite generated from other process industries, we can reduce carbon emissions from cement manufacturing process. Further, we are looking forward to generating onsite fossil free electricity generation facilities by increasing the capacity of WHR based power and ground mounted solar energy plants.
We can say energy is the prime requirement of the cement industry and renewable energy is one of the major sources, which provides an opportunity to make a clean, safe and infinite source of power which is affordable for the cement industry.

What are the current programmes run by your organisation for re-building the environment and reducing pollution?
We are working in different ways for environmental aspects. As I said, we strongly believe that we all together can make a difference. We focus on every environmental aspect directly / indirectly related to our operation and surroundings.
If we talk about air pollution in operation, every section of the operational unit is well equipped with state-of-the-art technology-based air pollution control equipment (BagHouse and ESP) to mitigate the dust pollution beyond the compliance standard. We use high class standard PTFE glass fibre filter bags in our bag houses. UCWL has installed the DeNOx system (SNCR) for abatement of NOx pollution within norms. The company has installed a 6 MW capacity Waste Heat Recovery based power plant that utilises waste heat of kiln i.e., green and clean energy source. Also, installed a 14.6 MW capacity solar power system in the form of a renewable energy source.
All material transfer points are equipped with a dust extraction system. Material is stored under a covered shed to avoid secondary fugitive dust emission sources. Finished product is stored in silos. Water spraying system are mounted with material handling point. Road vacuum sweeping machine deployed for housekeeping of paved area.
In mining, have deployed wet drill machine for drilling bore holes. Controlled blasting is carried out with optimum charge using Air Decking Technique with wooden spacers and non-electric detonator (NONEL) for control of noise, fly rock, vibration, and dust emission. No secondary blasting is being done. The boulders are broken by hydraulic rock breaker. Moreover, instead of road transport, we installed Overland Belt Conveying system for crushed limestone transport from mine lease area to cement plant. Thus omit an insignificant amount of greenhouse gas emissions due to material transport, which is otherwise emitted from combustion of fossil fuel in the transport system. All point emission sources (stacks) are well equipped with online continuous emission monitoring system (OCEMS) for measuring parameters like PM, SO2 and NOx for 24×7. OCEMS data are interfaced with SPCB and CPCB servers.
The company has done considerable work upon water conservation and certified at 2.76 times water positive. We installed a digital water flow metre for each abstraction point and digital ground water level recorder for measuring ground water level 24×7. All digital metres and level recorders are monitored by an in-house designed IoT based dashboard. Through this live dashboard, we can assess the impact of rainwater harvesting (RWH) and ground water monitoring.
All points of domestic sewage are well connected with Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and treated water is being utilised in industrial cooling purposes, green belt development and in dust suppression. Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) installed for mine’s workshop. Treated water is reused in washing activity. The unit maintains Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD).
Our unit has done extensive plantations of native and pollution tolerant species in industrial premises and mine lease areas. Moreover, we are not confined to our industrial boundary for plantation. We organised seedling distribution camps in our surrounding areas. We involve our stakeholders, too, for our plantation drive. UCWL has also extended its services under Corporate Social Responsibility for betterment of the environment in its surrounding. We conduct awareness programs for employees and stakeholders. We have banned Single Use Plastic (SUP) in our premises. In our industrial township, we have implemented a solid waste management system for our all households, guest house and bachelor hostel. A complete process of segregated waste (dry and wet) door to door collection systems is well established.

Tell us about the efforts taken by your organisation to better the environment in and around the manufacturing unit.
UCWL has invested capital in various environmental management and protection projects like installed DeNOx (SNCR) system, strengthening green belt development in and out of industrial premises, installed high class pollution control equipment, ground-mounted solar power plant etc.
The company has taken up various energy conservation projects like, installed VFD to reduce power consumption, improve efficiency of WHR power generation by installing additional economiser tubes and AI-based process optimisation systems. Further, we are going to increase WHR power generation capacity under our upcoming expansion project. UCWL promotes rainwater harvesting for augmentation of the ground water resource. Various scientifically based WHR structures are installed in plant premises and mine lease areas. About 80 per cent of present water requirement is being fulfilled by harvested rainwater sourced from Mine’s Pit. We are also looking forward towards green transport (CNG/LNG based), which will drastically reduce carbon footprint.
We are proud to say that JK Lakshmi Cement Limited has a strong leadership and vision for developing an eco-conscious and sustainable role model of our cement business. The company was a pioneer among cement industries of India, which had installed the DeNOx (SNCR) system in its cement plant.

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NTPC selects Carbon Clean and Green Power for carbon capture facility

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Carbon Clean and Green Power International Pvt. Ltd has been chosen by NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance (NETRA) to establish the carbon capture facility at NTPC Vindhyachal. This facility, which will use a modified tertiary amine to absorb CO2 from the power plant’s flue gas, is intended to capture 20 tonnes of CO2) per day. A catalytic hydrogenation method will eventually be used to mix the CO2 with hydrogen to create 10 tonnes of methanol each day. For NTPC, capturing CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas and turning it into methanol is a key area that has the potential to open up new business prospects and revenue streams.

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Concrete

Sustainable Mining for the Future

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ICR presents a case for responsible reporting across the mining supply chain.

The importance of mining, in times of sustainability reporting, is rising in stature. The rise of mining output is not waning but growing and the share of construction mineral ore in all of this still remains close to 50% of the entire extractive output. 

It is estimated that the global combined extractive output in mining is going to grow to 167gt in 2060, from the 2019 statistics of 92 gt. Out of this 27% is biomass, 15% is fossil fuel, 9% is metal ores and the balance is non-metallic minerals, bulk of which goes to the construction industry. While sustainability considerations would be driving most of the future growth, most notably, metals will be needed for electric storage batteries (eg. for electric cars), which require aluminium, cobalt, iron, lead, lithium, manganese and nickel but also for other relevant technologies, including those used for the production of wind turbines and solar panels; far greater amounts of metals are needed for clean energy production than the traditional energy production from fossil fuels. Thus the growth in metals for sustainability will offset the drop in extraction that would stem from growth in recycling. 

An overview of the mining sector

Mining for non-metallic minerals, from where the construction industry sources all its inputs, perhaps falls under the ASM (artisanal and small-scale mining), which has still remained labour intensive and suffers from safety issues all across, the developed world and developing, all have the similar challenges to grapple with. Efforts to increase automation, mechanisation and digitisation also come with the fair share of demands from the local community, which can hardly be neglected. While Large Scale Mining (LSM) is moving towards mechanisation and automation with minimum labour resources, the focus is increasingly shifting towards partnerships on supply chains that connect local procurement partners and the community at large to the external markets. 

One of the significant developments has been the shift towards battery-electrification of mobile equipment in the mines to the complete automation of all mining equipment with Net zero targets in focus. There are man-less mines in existence already where underground operations are being orchestrated through battery-electric equipment remotely connected through control systems. The partnerships between mining companies and the mining equipment OEMs is ensuring a smooth transition in this area that will take the use of fossil fuels in mines to a negligible proportion (mostly as consumables) in the near future. This however calls for a skills inventory crossover, that would need larger hand holding with the local government and other institutions as well as the local communities.

Sustainability in mining

The goals of sustainable development in mining would include transparency as a key theme between a large pool of actors that constitute and connect the upstream to the downstream supply chain partners (supplier, trader, smelter refiner, component producer, contract manufacturer, end user, intermediaries, agents and transporters). This would also entail collaboration with governments and across the supply chain to support a circular economy to minimise inputs to waste from the mining process and to increase the reuse, recycling and repurposing of raw materials and products to improve sustainable consumption. The traceability systems also ensure that the level of information that is shared and disclosed along the value chain. They illustrate the chain of custody, which is the sequence of stages and custodians the product is transferred to through the supply chain.

The transparency of reporting across the entire supply chain is at the core of this and this has two parts:

  • Minimise resource use and waste (use of water, energy, land and chemicals and minimise production of effluent, waste and chemicals) and also purpose waste rock
  • Incorporate life cycle thinking (extend responsible sourcing to all suppliers and collaborate to connect the consumer with sustainable raw materials).

India-centric big picture

India as a country has progressed well in SDG Reporting and Sustainable Development in the mining sector that accounts for 2.5% of the country’s GDP. Many of the key companies of the sector are SOEs. India is abundant in natural mineral resources and the country is one of the world’s main producers of iron ore and bauxite. India is the third largest producer of coal, behind the US and China. In construction related extractive minerals, India is the world’s second largest producer. Section 135 of India’s Companies Act on CSR and Regulation for large public companies to produce Business Responsibility Reports, makes it imperative for Large Mining companies (both metallic and non-metallic extractive ones) to be part of the SDG reporting, that cover diverse range of sustainability areas including GHG gas emissions, energy use, stakeholder engagement and labour and human rights. 

In 2011, the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued the National Voluntary Guidelines on the Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs). Building on the NVGs, a new guidance entitled the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC) was released in 2018. The new guidance integrates the ‘Respect’ pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Following other countries, India is also on the path of developing sustainability guidelines for the end-to-end supply chains in the mining sector. This will only ensure stakeholder participation for safety and sustainability in all four stages: profiling, reservation, exploration and departure. For future growth in mining, that will entail coal, iron-ore, bauxite and limestone extraction as the top four mining categories, it is an absolute necessity that focus on SDG reporting is carried through beyond the voluntary reporting mandate to encompass the aspirations of the communities and investors who would be the major beneficiaries of such initiatives. Without their blessings, the growth in these sectors would be mired by distrust and lack of transparency, which remains to be one of the dampeners for sustainable growth in mining. 

Procyon Mukherjee

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