Though it remains a key requirement for coal-fired thermal plants, operators have not been relying completely on the fossil fuel from overseas, but on indigenous coal as well. However, currently power generation from thermal stations has been going on uninterruptedly in Thoothukudi with adequate coal stock.
While both public and private power plants exist, the port city is chiefly known for the Thoothukudi Thermal Power Station (TTPS), which has an installed capacity of 1,050 MW. With five units in place, each was designed to generate 210 MW. On the other hand, NTPL (NLC Thermal Power Limited), a joint venture company of NLC and Tangedco, near TTPS, has a generation capacity of 1,000 MW through two units.
As for TTPS “it consumes about 17,000 to 18,000 tonnes of coal a day for generation in full swing. In the present scenario, the volume of coal stock remains at a manageable level and a similar trend is expected for a week”, sources told DT Next on Sunday.
The boiler tubes at TTPS were primarily designed to handle domestic coal, which contains 40 to 42 per cent ash compared to imported coal, which has 8 per cent of ash content. Above all, power generation relied on 25 per cent imported coal and 75 per cent of indigenous coal.
The NTPL also achieves generation to the fullest with 500 MW in each of the two units. “The daily average requirement of NTPL is 12,600 tonnes of coal, which comprises 70 per cent of indigenous coal and 30 per cent foreign coal. As of now, about three lakh tonnes of coal is in stock,” the sources said.
In the middle of 2017-18, the Centre, according to its policy, disallowed coal imports to promote ‘Make India’, but the restriction was lifted this fiscal year after coal scarcity was witnessed.
Currently, the problem lies not with imports, but in coal fields that were exposed to rain hindering mining operations. Since mining slowed, the coal rake movement also came down. To manage the growing energy demand and to offset the decline in wind energy, generation from thermal plants was up to the mark over the past fortnight.
Normally, during September, the daily average electricity consumption in Tamil Nadu is between 12,000 MW and 13,000 MW, but it has crossed this and touched 15,000 MW. The scorching heat in September is the reason attributed for this. “The electricity demand goes up to 15,000 MW in the State, but it has only 13,500 MW available,” the sources said.
However, private power plants are not in the race as operations have remained suspended for various reasons. Wind power was unreliable as its output touched a new low of 6 MW and 8 MW suddenly from 1,000 MW in the afternoon on Saturday under the Tirunelveli Circle of Non-Conventional Energy Source. Adding to the woes, the first reactor of the Koodankulam nuclear plant is under refueling shutdown as part of its annual maintenance.
On coal imports, N Vaiyapuri, Deputy Chairman, V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust, said there was a shortfall of about two lakh tonnes. Its import volume has come down to 1.1 million tonnes as of now, while it was 1.3 million tonnes during the corresponding period last year.
JP Joe Villavarayar, president, Tuticorin Ship Agents Association, said unnecessary increase in operational cost on this import cargo at the Thoothukudi seaport led to a decline in coal imports.
An importer has to incur an expenditure of Rs 300 per tonne on crane operation, conveyor belt, labour levy and transportation costs.