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Indian Power Sector should have 1,000 MW sets in its profile, Shri R V Shahi, Former Secretary, Ministry Of Power

Indian Power Sector should have 1,000 MW sets in its profile
[R V Shahi's Weekly Column for Infraline, March 17, 2008]

If we look at the historical development of Indian power sector, particularly from the point of view of assimilating new technologies, we would have reasons both to be happy and also to be sad. While in a period of about 60 years we have added almost 1,40,000 MW and thereby raised the per capita consumption from a very low level of 15 kwh to about 620 kwh per year, and this by no means is a small achievement, there are countries which have done much better. In the initial days of development of the Indian power sector, we had the rating of power generating sets in the range of 5 to 10 MW which subsequently increased to about 60 MW during 60's, to 100/110 MW during 70's, to 210 MW during early 80's, and to 500 MW in mid 80's. Thereafter there has been a long gap in upgrading the power generation technology in our power development programmes. From 1985, for more than 20 years, we are almost stagnant at 500 MW. In the recent years efforts have been made, but generating sets of higher ratings and with super critical technologies have yet to come to Indian power grid. It is expected that somewhere in 2009 the unit rating of 660 MW could get connected to the system which would mean almost 25 years after we got 500 MW into the system.

I recall, about two and a half years back, the President of one of the premier power manufacturing companies of China viz. Dongfang was having a discussion in my office in Shram Shakti Bhawan. By then the Chinese power equipment manufacturing companies had already made their entries into Indian power sector - Dongfang, Shanghai Electric and Harbind have all been active and atleast two of them quite successful. The President of Dongfang explained to me, through a very nicely prepared company's brochure, particularly focusing attention on a chart which showed how during various phases this company upgraded its manufacturing ability both in terms of quantities as also in terms of upgradation of unit rating. He showed, with a great degree of pride, that till early 80's India's BHEL was considered as a role model for Dongfang. In fact in many ways BHEL was ahead of them. And, during the period beyond mid 80's, additions of units of higher ratings beyond 200 MW and passing through 300 MW, 600 MW and rising upto 1,000 MW characterize a significant proportion of their manufacturing profile. Also their annual production capacity rose to over 25,000 MW, almost four times of BHEL, during last twenty years. While the President of the Dongfang was so enthused and very happy in narrating as to how in last 20 years they have left BHEL far behind, I, as an Indian power professional was really sad at heart thinking why we could not have done better.

While talking on the issue of upgradation of rating of generating units, another incident that I recall and I consider worth mentioning is when NTPC was considering, around 1986, addition of two 500 MW units at its Farakka Power Station in West Bengal. There were two schools of thoughts. According to one, it should pose absolutely no problem because by then NTPC was already in the process of having 500 MW sets at three of its earlier power stations - two at Singrauli, two at Korba and three at Ramagundam, some of them already commissioned and others in construction. Another school of thought opined that the eastern grid had a much smaller system capacity, and therefore, if a 500 MW unit tripped it could have an adverse impact in destabilizing the grid. Finally after a lot of debates, computations and analysis the issue got settled in favour of going ahead and the rest is the history. It needs to be mentioned that in those days concept of National Grid was not there and each of the Regional Grids operated with its own frequency in isolation of the other. Over a period of time now we have atleast four Regional Grids inter-connected on synchronous mode with almost 90,000 MW of capacity.

The time has been, for quite a few years, ripe and also right to have larger sets connected to the grid with all the resultant advantages of cost effectiveness, economies of scale, energy efficiency in terms of comparatively improved heat rates etc. Having got into the system 500 MW sets in late 80's, perhaps late 90's was the right time when we should have atleast made a beginning of having a number of generating sets of larger ratings. During the Tenth Plan it was envisaged that NTPC would have 660 MW sets with super critical technologies aggregating to more than 4,000 MW of capacity. It waited for BHEL to organize technical collaboration so that it could atleast participate when such tenders were initiated. BHEL took its own time in finalising such arrangements. Even now its domestic preparedness for manufacturing of units of higher ratings is far away from what one could have expected. And, as a result, the delay has deprived the Indian Power sector from the benefits of 600, 660,800 and 1,000 MW sets. In case of Ultra Mega Projects, initiated by the Ministry of Power in 2006, the super critical technology and larger unit rating was made obligatory. Obviously, these units would get commissioned only towards the end of Eleventh Plan (by 2011-12).

Another consideration which is sometimes put forth is that in a situation of shortage, which the Indian power sector is confronted with (peaking shortage of the order of over 14%), and is likely to continue with such a situation, large size units, when out on breakdown or even on scheduled maintenance, lead to greater distress. If the same capacity is composed of three or four different units, the impact of these units not being available, whether because of planned maintenance or because of forced outages, is significantly less. There is considerable weight in this argument. However, the advantages of larger units, because of more optimal capital cost, and therefore considerable benefit by way of reduced fixed cost of power, as well as the consideration of climate change, where larger units could be expected to be considerably more efficient on fuel consumption, would perhaps override the problem pointed out earlier in relation to lower units providing greater flexibility in terms of their non-availability causing lesser problems. On balance, with the Indian power sector reaching an installed capacity base of about 1,50,000 MW very soon, larger units in the system could provide greater advantages. They were relevant even five year back. They are more relevant now - even 1000 MW sets.

Last week I was in Japan and had the benefit of visiting a power plant which has one unit of 1,000 MW. I was deeply impressed at the compact layout and the performance in terms of various parameters that this plant has been exhibiting. Japan has an overall installed capacity of more than 2,00,000 MW (200 GW). Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is the largest power generation, transmission and distribution company which supplies electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan region, which covers about 10% of Japan's total land area. However, since this area is comparatively more thickly populated, even though area wise it is 10%, almost 30% of Japan's population live in this region. This also happens to be Japan's political and economic hub. The annual consumption of electricity in this area is around 300 billion kwh which is about one third of the total electricity supply in the country. The power plant that I visited is located at Hitachinaka about 130 km north-east of Tokyo and it is called Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station. It belongs to Tokyo Electric Power Company. This company which has a total capacity of 64.3 GW has about 17 GW of nuclear, 35 GW of thermal (including 1.6 GW on coal) and balance hydro electric capacity.

There are a number of electric utilities in Japan covering different service areas. The total volume of electricity supply is around 900 TWH (billion kwh). To have an idea of size of operations of different utilities, in addition to TEPCO, the following Table indicates the volume of electricity sales by these companies.

S.No. Company Approximate Percentage of Total Volume
1. Tokyo Electric Power Co. 30
2. Kansal Electric Power Co. 20
3. Chubu Electric Power Co. 18
4. Tohoku Electric Power Co. 10
5. Kyushu Electric Power Co. 08
6. Chugoku Electric Power Co. 07
7. Shikoku Electric Power Co. 02
8. Hokoriku Electric Power Co. 02
9. Hokkaidu Electric Power Co. 02
10. Okinawa Electric Power Co. 01
Total 100%

The Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station is located by the side of the Hitachinaka port. It is a state- of- the-art coal based thermal power plant and it started commercial operation in December, 2003. It consumes about 2.3 million tones of coal per year. Some of the technical parameters are given below:

  • Main steam pressure - 24.5 mpa

  • Main steam temperature - 600 degreeo C.

  • Re-heating steam temperature - 600 degreeo C.

  • Overall thermal efficiency - 43.1%.

  • Height of stack - 230 meters (supported by octagonal cross spiral steel tower).

  • Cooling water intake/outlet system - curtain wall type intake and under water discharge.

  • For flu gas treatments - De Nox system and De Sox system.

  • Electrostatic precipitator.

The plant imports coal mainly from Australia and the calorific value is in the range of 6,500 to 7000 KCal per kilogram. Before the coal is fed into the boiler, pieces of coal in the storage yard, which are about 5 Cm. in size, are pulverized into fine powder. Some of the important points which need to be brought out are as follows:

  • Even though the imported coal is far superior as compared to the coal that we normally have in our power plants from our coal mines, the Hitachinaka Power Plant has made special arrangement in the coal yard for prevention of coal dust from flying out, and for this special Wind Barriers of sufficient heights have been erected around the coal yard.

  • The De Nox and De Sox plants have been set-up to specifically address the environmental concerns, as compared to the conventional electrostatic precipitators which are the normal features in Indian power plants.

  • They are able to achieve an availability of about 99%.

  • A set of sound proof walls have been erected around the boiler, the building that houses the turbines, the smoke stack etc. and they are so designed as to match the surrounding.

The electricity supply system of TEPCO, as mentioned consists of about 64 GW. 1,000 MW unit is not creating any destabilizing effect. Indian Integrated System now is much larger and therefore the apprehension of large unit being responsible for any destabilization could be fully misplaced.

The power plant set-up at Hitachinaka has been supplied by the Hitachi Electric Works. I also had the opportunity of visiting this factory which is about 120 km north-east of Tokyo. It produces turbines and generators of different sizes. Hitachi was founded in 1910 and at that time the objective was to establish a national industrial technology. This organization over last 100 years has seen different phases and facets of technology development. Presently the factory located in an area of around 150 acres is capable to produce turbines and generators of different sizes. Hitachi have a number of factories producing different products in the power group. The following Table gives the details of these factories alongwith their products.

Factory Site area (000)m2 Main Products
Kaigan Factory 600
  • Nuclear Fusion Equipments

  • Steam Turbine

  • Gas Turbines

  • Hydraulic Turbines

  • Generators
Yamate Factory 111
  • General Purpose Motors

  • Traction Motors

  • Elevators & Escalator Motor

  • Diesel & Gas Engines

  • Gas Turbine Generation Systems

  • Cogeneration System
Pinkai Factory 205
  • Nuclear Power Plant Equipments

  • Power Devices
Futo Factory 117
  • Nuclear Module

  • Condenser
Kukubu Factory 124
  • Substation System

  • Electrical Equipment

They have supplied so far more than 1700 Steam Turbines with a total capacity of 1,12,000 MW including 65,000 MW supplied in Japan and 47,000 MW in other countries. The following Table highlights Hitachi Works production and supply over last 50 years.

Year Total No. of Turbines (Cumulative) Total Generating Capacity (Cumulative) Maximum Single Unit Capacity
(GW) (MW)
1950 350 2 50
1960 500 4 100
1970 960 15 300
1980 1300 42 1000
1990 1500 68 1150
2000 1700 90 1150
2007 1736 112 1380

  • The above Table has been prepared from a chart given by them in their presentation and therefore the numbers are approximate.

  • On the production of Generators, they have manufactured and supplied so far more than 1,000 generators in wide range of capacity upto 1600 MVA with several types of cooling systems - Air, Hydrogen, Hydrogen/ water.

In the last two years, sufficient noise has been made that in India power manufacturing capacity is totally inadequate compared to the size of demands and particularly the demands ahead. People have gone to the extent of saying that if China could add 70 to 80,000 MW of capacity a year thus taking their overall capacity to more than 600,000 MW, it was primarily because of the fact that they were able to set-up three large power plant manufacturing companies whose aggregate capacity would be almost 80,000 MW per year. This is no doubt a quantitative presentation of the technical ability of this country, But, even qualitatively they have progressed far ahead in the sense that their indigenous manufacturing capability includes large size units of 1,000 MW and more and super critical technology. It would therefore be desirable that even now, though belatedly, crash programmes are made and the concerned authorities facilitate development of three to four manufacturing companies which could produce boilers, turbines and generators of different sizes and also with latest technologies. Any such effort would take atleast four to five years. As a matter of fact, it may take much longer for such new ventures to produce and supply any significant volume. In the meantime, Indian power sector cannot and should not remain indifferent to the need for embracing larger units of 800 to 1,000 MW capacity. While I have been preparing this article during the week-end, on Sunday (March 16, 2008), I asked a very knowledgeable Turbine-Generator manufacturing Specialist, who has spent more than 35 years in a large Turbine Generator factory, about possibility and workability of 1000 MW sets in our system. His prompt response was that perhaps Indian coal could be an area of concern. When I mentioned about washed coal blended with imported coal, he was quite positive on the prospect.

This desire obviously cannot be met by altogether new players (the new generating companies) who may have plans to develop in next four to five years 3 to 5,000 MW of capacity or even less. This responsibility should be taken by large established power generating companies of the country. They can afford to venture into these initiatives. In India, NTPC is the leader in the generation field. Other generating companies of reasonable sizes include Maharashtra Power Generating Company, Karnataka Power Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Generating Company, and Rajasthan Power Generating Company in the thermal sector. These companies and more particularly NTPC could be called upon to proceed with inducting large size units into their power generation profile. Obviously the country cannot wait for indigenous manufacturing industry to prepare, set up factories, produce large size turbines and generators and then the utilities establish such power plants. The time is right now for the major generating utilities to float global tenders and set up a few such power stations with 800 MW unit size and some of them definitely with 1,000 MW unit rating. Simultaneously we should also work on developing indigenous manufacturing.

No doubt, power systems which include the National Grid Transmission System, Regional Transmission Systems, State Level Transmission Networks all have to integrate their strategies in a manner that once the large units start getting connected with the transmission systems, utmost care is exercised in responding to the operational disciplines and maintenance programmes which are normally expected for such integrated operations. Equally important would be the country's preparedness for meeting the maintenance requirements in terms of timely availability of spare parts for such large sized power units, particularly in the areas of balance of plants. While in the Hitachinaka Power Plant, we were told that the plant requires three months of outage for a comprehensive overhaul. Our concern as to why such a long schedule is necessary and also as to how the loss of availability would be mitigated in a shortage situation like ours remained unanswered. We also raised this issue during our deliberations in the Hitachi manufacturing Works. It appears that it should be possible to drastically reduce the schedule of the periodic long term overhaul. Whenever new technologies, and particularly when unit rating is higher, have to be brought in, sufficient advance preparations are necessary by way of training of operation and maintenance personnel. The Indian power engineers have shown their ability in successfully transiting to the 500 MW systems. We need to be confident that they will show equal competence while we transit through the 1,000 MW unit entry into Indian power system. What is necessary is a desire (a dream or a vision), a goal, and more importantly, a commitment to reach that goal.