India needs 24x7 availability of power for its economic growth. This power cannot be achieved by renewable energy sources alone. Thermal Energy cannot be written off till storage becomes cost-effective for Round-the-Clock supply through Renewable Energy. Read on…

The government has decided to add 80 GW thermal power capacity by the year 2031-32, as Power demand of the country has increased at an unprecedented rate due to rapid growth of the economy. It has been decided not to compromise on availability of power for economic growth. The required power cannot be achieved by renewable energy sources alone, nuclear capacity cannot be added at a rapid pace – hence coal-based thermal capacity must be added for meeting our energy needs. India currently has 27 GW under construction, and further 25 GW was earlier envisaged. But it is decided now that to work on at least 55 GW – 60 GW of thermal capacity. As demand ramps up, this capacity would be added.

As per the projections of National Electricity Plan for the period 2022-32, the required coal and lignite based installed capacity will be 283 GW by 2031-2032 as against the present installed capacity of 214 GW. While it is Sundown for Thermal energy it is not Sunset yet. Industry must gear itself up for addition of thermal capacity. Given the power needs, the industry will keep getting orders for thermal capacity addition for the next 5 – 7 years as assessed by Ministry of power.

A Thermal Power Plant is a mechanism instituted to convert heat energy to electric power / Energy for domestic and commercial use. During the production of electricity, steam-operated turbines transform heat into mechanical and then electric power. In thermal power plants, steam is produced at high pressure and temperature using the heat energy produced through solid fuel combustion (most often coal). The turbine shaft connected to the generator rotates with the help of this steam. The generator transforms the turbine impeller’s kinetic energy into electric energy.

There are many types of Thermal plants in India, classified according to the source of heat. Some of them are listed below.

Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant

Coal-fired thermal plants used coal as the source. In India, power is produced using both conventional such as thermal, nuclear, and hydro and renewables like wind, solar, biomass, etc. sources. Even though, a large portion of the electricity produced – roughly 75% of the total is produced using coal-fired thermal power plants.

Gas Thermal Power Plant

The fuel sources in gas thermal power plants are gases or oils. A thermal power station that burns natural gas to produce electricity is known as a gas-fired power station, or a natural gas power plant. India has a total built capacity for gas-based electricity of 24.824 GW, of which 14.3 GW, distributed among 31 gas-based facilities, is still stranded.

Geothermal Thermal Power Plant

Underground fluids are used by geothermal power plants to generate heat. According to the Geological Survey of India, there are approximately 340 geothermal hot springs in India Most of them have low surface temperatures, between 37 to 90 degrees Celsius, making them ideal for direct heat applications. India’s first geothermal power plant is about to be set up in Ladakh.

Biomass Thermal Power Plants

Heat from biomass thermal power is generated using bagasse, rice husk, straw, cotton stalk, coconut shells, soya husk, etc. Biomass has traditionally been a significant source of energy for India. It is abundant, carbon-neutral, renewable, and has the potential to significantly increase employment in rural regions.

Moreover, biomass can produce stable energy. More than 70% of the population of the country relies on biomass for its energy needs, and the country still derives about 32% of its primary energy from it.

Nuclear Thermal Power Plants

Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to generate heat. A nuclear power plant’s operation phase typically lasts the longest during its entire cycle. Apsara Research Reactor in Mumbai is the first nuclear reactor in Asia. As of 2022, there are 22 operational nuclear thermal power plants in India.

Thermal Power Plants’ typical sketch…

The main vendors for a coal based thermal power plant are as follows.

Steam Turbine

Several companies specialize in higher capacity turbogenerators (660 MW and above) in India in manufacturing and providing these power generation systems. Some of the notable vendors include:

  • Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)
  • Siemens India
  • General Electric (GE) Power India Limited
  • Toshiba JSW Power Systems Private Limited
  • Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems India Pvt. Ltd.
  • Ansaldo Energia

Steam Generator

For steam generators of 660 MW and higher capacities in India, similarly several reputed vendors specialize for power generation. These vendors include:

  • Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)
  • Larsen & Toubro (L&T)
  • Doosan Power Systems India
  • Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems India Pvt. Ltd.
  • GE Power India Limited
  • Babcock & Wilcox

Balance of Plant (BOP) Typically Constitute The Following:

  • Water and Steam Cycle vendors: SPX Cooling Technologies, Evapco, Baltimore Aircoil Company (BAC), Delta Cooling Towers, Inc, Marley (SPX Marley, Paharpur Cooling Towers, Hamon Group
  • Coal Handling and Ash Handling Systems vendors: Macawber Beekay Pvt Ltd., TRF Limited, Mecgale Pneumatics Pvt. Ltd., Elecon Engineering Company Limited, Technip FMC (formerly known as FMC Technologies), Schade Lagertechnik GmbH, Enmas GB Power Systems Projects Limited
  • Fuel Oil Handling Systems
  • Cooling Systems
  • Electrical Systems
  • Control and Instrumentation Systems
  • Environmental Control Systems
  • Auxiliary Power Systems
  • Civil Works and Structures

EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) refers to a project delivery method where a single contractor or a consortium is responsible for the entire project, from design and engineering to procurement of equipment and materials, and finally, construction and commissioning in contrast to several packages being awarded in which each package would have its terminal points and exclusions in the scope of work for the vendor.

An EPC project can be divided into various segments or packages based on the different components and systems required for the construction of the power plant. These segments are commonly referred to as islands or packages. Each island or package typically represents a distinct part of the overall project scope.

For large capacity thermal power plants, the EPC scope might include several islands/packages, which could be categorized as:

  • Boiler Island: This island comprises all the equipment, systems, and structures related to the boiler, including the boiler itself, furnace, burners, air preheaters, boiler feedwater pumps, and associated piping and instrumentation.
  • Turbine Island: This package includes the steam turbine, generator, condenser, cooling systems, and other auxiliary systems directly related to power generation.
  • Balance of Plant (BOP) Island: The BOP Island covers all auxiliary systems and components that support the main power generation process, as mentioned earlier—such as coal handling, ash handling, water treatment, electrical systems, control and instrumentation, and environmental control systems.
  • Civil Works Island: This package involves the construction of all civil structures required for the power plant, including buildings, foundations, roads, and other structural elements.
  • Control Systems Island: This could encompass the control and instrumentation systems, including Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA), and other control-related packages.
  • Auxiliary Power Island: This island might cover auxiliary systems like emergency power generators, battery backups, and other critical power systems.
  • Turnkey Approach: A turnkey project is one where the contractor or provider takes full responsibility for the entire project from start to finish. They deliver a complete, ready-to-use facility or system to the client. In a turnkey arrangement, the contractor handles everything from design and engineering to procurement, construction, commissioning, and sometimes even ongoing maintenance.

The client or owner essentially ‘turns the key’ and the facility is ready for operation without the client needing to be heavily involved in the construction process. Packaging, on the other hand, involves breaking down a project into smaller, more manageable packages or segments. Each package represents a distinct part of the project scope, which can be managed, procured, and executed separately.

Different contractors or vendors may be responsible for handling each package. For instance, one contractor may manage the civil works package, another the mechanical equipment package, and so on.

EPC Contracts envisaged to be turnkey by the principal may turnout to be their nightmare as they continue to engage with subcontractors of the EPC contractor who is not inclined to engage after getting paid the lion’s share from high value islands like SG and TG. Balance of plant with small value packages are often the causality and the reason for delayed project implementation leading to time and cost overrun.

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Rath is a highly experienced Additional General Manager with 33 years of experience in the power sector, specializing in Energy, Environment, and Economics, robust foundation in operations, design, procurement, feasibility, policy formulation, investment decisions, and carbon credits. Currently, he is on deputation to Ministry of Power, GOI. He obtained a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Aligarh Muslim University and published numerous papers in various journals and conferences on actionable issues of climate change, sustainability, heartfulness, decision making and leadership.

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