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The coal-to-methane path to low-carbon

Date: 15-10-2020
Subject: The coal-to-methane path to low-carbon
The government’s green signal for a host of projects that seek new and non-conventional usage of India’s large coal reserves, designed to proactively bring down carbon emissions, makes perfect sense. The move would boost our energy security, reduce crude oil imports and, in the bargain, generally improve air quality nationally.

Coal India (CIL) is firming up investments of Rs 40,000 crore for a clutch of coal-to-methanol plants using indigenous technology. The first such plant is to come up at Dankuni, West Bengal, for which CIL has already invited bids. Methanol, a single carbon compound, which can also be produced from agricultural residue and municipal solid waste, can well be blended with automotive fuel to reduce tailpipe emissions by a fifth. Further, we can have 20% blending of dimethyl ether, a methanol derivative, with LPG or cooking gas.

In parallel, CIL has launched a Rs 13,000 crore coal-to-gas project at Talcher, Odisha. The gas produced via this new route would be used for making urea. Reportedly, 3-4 more such projects have been identified. NITI Aayog reports envisage gasification of 100 MT of coal annually in the foreseeable future, to gainfully supplement domestic supplies of natural gas, the cleanest and most efficient fossil fuel.

Such carbon-reduction projects need to complement renewable power and energy efficiency initiatives to bring down emissions of greenhouse gases. The pandemic has led to steep fall in consumption tax collections, and fiscal devolutions; the Clean Energy Cess would now need to be diverted for fiscal purposes beyond 2022. Renewed Indo-US energy cooperation can make rising American carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration (CCUS) projects benefit India, too.


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