In a bid to bring down its coal imports substantially, Tata Steel is testing a technology that will produce coal with low ash content. The plant, to be set up in Jamshedpur, aims to start commercial production for clean coal by 2018-20.

The company is piloting the project in Vizag, with 500 kg of coal cleaned per hour. With the technology, Tata Steel has been able to bring down the ash content to 8 per cent. The plan is to scale this up 20 times.

Impact on margins

“Reducing ash content will help improve margins as we can bring down our imports and depend on coal from our own mines in West Bokaro and Jharia. The requirement for coal in our plant is growing. By 2015 we will be able to get a clearer picture of the success of the technology,” Tata Steel's Chief, Research and Development and Scientific Services, Mr Mark B. Denys, said, on the sidelines of the Tata Innovista event in Mumbai.

Tata Steel spends about 80-crore on similar R&D annually at Jamshedpur and around Rs 600-700-crore globally.

Currently, Tata Steel imports 50 per cent of total coal requirement from Indonesia and Australia to meet its captive demand. With the clean coal plant, Tata Steel also plans to license the technology to other domestic steel-makers.

Patents

The company has filed two patents internationally and nine in the country for this technology that can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases and remove impurities such as ash, sulphur and other heavy metals, thus improving the quality of the coal

The company has been working on reducing the ash content of Indian coal during the past 5-6 years. Apparently, in 2007, the company was able to clean 1.9 million tonnes of coal with an ash content of mere 13 per cent.

Priyanka.pani@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 29, 2012)
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