It is not the appropriate time to move out of the reliance on coal for power generation. The thoughts of replacing coal with renewable energy are not at all realistic. The thoughts of replacing coal with imported LNG would make energy generation mono-fuel based again and would also enhance cost. Such strategy will not be reasonable at all. Coal is still the cheapest source of energy.
Dr. Kazi Bayzid Kabir, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Department of BUET, made the observation in an exclusive interview with Energy & Power Editor Mollah Amzad Hossain.
After going through tumultuous debate, the first imported coal-fired project at Payra has come into commercial operation. What are your views?
Please note that the global debate about coal power is about carbon di-oxide emission. But in Bangladesh, the debate is not about that. In Bangladesh, the debate is about flue gas –SOx and NOx, and mercury emissions.
At Payra, there is practically no carbon emission at all due to the advanced technology that has been used. The technology used at ambient condition is also letting of almost zero SOx, NOx and mercury emissions. Any fossil fuel burning would let off some carbon emission. Considering global standard here in Payra, it is negligible. Imported fuel dependent country like Bangladesh does not have any realistic possibility for getting out of coal dependency over the next 50 years. Coal is still the low cost fuel. Until another low cost fuel is available, replacing coal as preferred fuel would not happen.
Some observers allege that the flue gas chimney at Payra power plant has been constructed in contravention to original design. What has really happened?
BCPCL, the implementing agency of Payra power plant, had requested the Department of Environment (DOE) to reduce the 275-meter designed height of the chimney. As requested by the DOE, I also worked in the review committee. Their argument was that Bangladesh is in the cyclone prone region and in every passing year, the intensity of the cyclone is growing. The 275-meter high chimney in such circumstance would not be sustainable. The logic behind high chimney was restricting dispersion sulfur, SOx, NOx in the air. Payra power plant has already installed Flue Gas Desulfurization Plant (FGD), low NOx burner, ESP for bringing down these emissions below the permissible limits. The technologies used have already restricted emissions. As such the 275-meter high chimney was not necessary.
The DOE changed the criteria for determining the height of the chimney. The present guideline of DOE is far more scientific. The present height is 220 meters.
Your specialization also includes coal-fired power generation. Do you think Payra power plant could comply with DOE conditions for air and water pollutions? Is DOE monitoring these on real time basis?
Based on the plant and machinery that used at Payra plant, I do not find any reason for non-compliance. Air quality monitoring system has been installed there. It is oil portal based. The DOE has the right of access. There is a facility for monitoring the air quality on 24/7 basis.
Government has a plan for 23 coal-based power plants by 2041. Now, there is a thought in the government for not proceeding further with the planned ones. What are your views? Some organizations like CPD, TIB and environment activist groups are the advising government for replacing the planned ones with solar and other renewables. How do you react to this?
It is not the case of Bangladesh only. In the given scenario of power generation technology, it is not feasible at all for renewable energy replacing coal as the preferred base load power generation option. According to Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), of the 72,000 Gwh generated power, 67 Gwh (0.7%) is from renewables. We cannot consider RE on the basis of installed capacity. We can only harness 10-15% of the installed capacity from RE. Hence, we have no scope in Bangladesh for even thinking about RE replacing coal as preferred source of base load power generation.
The government may also think about LNG as potential source. It is not also feasible at the moment. The levelized cost of generation at Payra is now Tk 6.40 per unit. The cost of LNG-based power would not be less than Tk 10.00.
As Bangladesh is increasingly moving towards imported fuel, exclusive reliance on LNG will again make energy generation mono-fuel based. It is not an acceptable proposition for me. True LNG is a bit less emitting fuel than coal. We must not bring any major change in fuel mix now.
You are aware that the government could not take any decision of mining own coal yet. All type of study reports justifying mining at Phulbari has been done. But the government is withholding decision for mining from there. What is your opinion?
Underground mining cannot make Bangladesh competitive with imported coal. Recently State Minister Energy in a discussion on Payra power project also mentioned about this. BPDB is now purchasing coal from Barapukuria mine at US$130 per tonne. But Payra is importing it at US$74.
On the other hand, all required techno-economic studies on Phulabri has been completed. I heard that there is no technical issue for mining at Phulbari. But rehabilitation, environmental and social impacts management are the challenges. But these are not insurmountable. I think for agitations of a section of civil society, the government is not taking decision. It is now a political decision when to start mining at Phulbari.
Several forecasts are estimating that 80% of the energy generation would come from renewable energy by 2050. What are your views?
The global scenario gives indication that contributions of renewable energy would considerably increase. But I have reasonable doubts whether this would reach 80%. I do not think Bangladesh can keep pace with global movement towards RE. Solar power is making headway, but I have doubt that wind and other forms of RE would make major contributions in Bangladesh. Agricultural wastes can be used as biomass. Bangladesh should start working with this.
The three sectors of carbon emission in Bangladesh are Industry, Energy and Transport. Bangladesh has pledged for reducing 5% emissions using its own fund and another 10% if global financing is available. This means reaching about 15% emissions reduction. Is Bangladesh moving on the right track?
Work is advancing on the right track for achieving efficiency in industrial operation following the Energy Efficiency Road Map. Initiatives have also been launched in the transport sector. But for the power sector, there is no alternative but increasing efficiency. Coal power from mega project has just been evacuated to national grid. Some more projects would be added in the next 5 years. The carbon emissions would increase. We have stressed on using advanced technologies and enhancing efficiencies in operation.
Power generation from waste is an option being discussed for a long time. Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is going for a 42.5MW capacity Incarnation Type Waste to Power Generation project soon. Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Narayanganj and Chottogram City Corporations may also follow it. Will this process increase carbon emission?
Waste management is a good initiative. 70% of the waste in Bangladesh is kitchen waste. Lot of energy will be required for drying this wet waste material. Hence, it should be treated as waste management rather than considering this as power generation option.
But incarnation would not create carbon emission. Emission control measures would be taken before letting off flue gases to the atmosphere.
Words are around that HFO is a highly polluting fuel. It pollutes air and water. Still Bangladesh continues using it for power generation. What is your opinion?
Bangladesh has too many HFO-based power plants now. The sulfur content is 1.5% and more. Less sulfur containing HFO is expensive. Environment guidelines do not have any specific mention about sulfur content for import. These plants are causing emissions being used as peaking plants. If used for longer duration, pollution could be less. The higher pollutions happen during start and shut down. Now these plants have to do these too often.
There are controversies about sulfur content in imported fuel. BSTI and Ministry of Commerce have set specifications for imported oil and coal, but those are not strict enough in the law of Department of Environment (DOE). What policy Bangladesh should adopt for importing less polluting fuel?
BSTI has set the standard for fuel oil. Ministry of Commerce has also set standard of sulfur content in imported coal. Because the brick manufacturers are now using more coal than that of power generation. And, this coal has higher sulfur content. I think, the standards should be addressed in the environment law – it should set the limits of sulfur contents of imported diesel and furnace oil. The law should also define what should be the sulfur content of imported coal. DOE should also set limits for flue gas emission in the air after the use of the primary energy in the power plants. These must be included as mandatory provisions in the environment law.