Coal gas solution for energy starved fertiliser industry

Vol 9, PW 18 (15 Dec 05) Midstream & Downstream

This could be the news Indias gas-starved fertiliser factories are waiting for.

We hear the oil and fertiliser ministries have agreed on the basic elements of a three-stage action plan to improve gas supplies to fertiliser factories. Fertiliser secretary Madhukar Gupta and oil secretary Sushil Tripathi will meet later this month to put their joint seal of approval to this emerging inter-ministerial cooperation.

This will be the first step in our efforts to tie up adequate supplies of gas for our units, a fertiliser ministry source tells us. No firm date for the meeting has yet been fixed.

Stage two involves harnessing coal bed methane as feedstock for fertiliser factories. For this, the fertiliser ministry wants to work jointly with ONGC, which has several CBM exploration blocks awarded from two bidding rounds.

An exploratory meeting will be held sometime this month between us and ONGC, says our fertiliser ministry source. With domestic sources of natural gas depleting, the oil ministry has convinced the fertiliser ministry to consider CBM as a replacement.

We want to tie-up with ONGC for CBM, says a source. We want to revive some of our factories that closed because of no gas.

Already identified for possible CBM revival is the closed fertiliser factory at Sindri in the Dhanbad coal belt of Bihar. Sindri is a (coal) pithead fertiliser factory, adds a source.

We want to revive it. Stage three of the gas supply action plan involves converting coal to gas for fertiliser factories.

For this the fertiliser ministry wants to be involved with GAILs project to convert coal to gas using Shell technology and has already held meetings with both companies. Under consideration is a plan to revive the shut Talcher fertiliser factory in Orissa using Shells coal gasification technology.

We will meet in the next three months to decide on Talcher as the pilot project. Shell, it seems, is confident that its technology can work with dirty Indian coal, which has a high ash content of 30%.