In a bid to aid the efforts of the Centre and State governments in containing air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR) due to stubble burning, NTPC Limited had started procuring biomass pellets made from farm stubble.
The aim was to provide farmers an incentive for not burning the farm residue.
A Power Ministry statement said that NTPC had envisaged consumption of five million tonnes of pellets in the current year at its 17 power plants including NTPC Korba (Chhattisgarh), NTPC Farakka (West Bengal), NTPC Dadri (Uttar Pradesh), NTPC Kudgi (Karnataka), NTPC Sipat (Chhattisgarh), and NTPC Rihand (Uttar Pradesh).
But sector watchers say there is scope for much improvement to meet the desired outcome of reducing air pollution.
“NTPC tenders had called for biomass pellets that are either raw or torrefied (heated and dried, but not combusted). But there is no proper technology around which can torrefy paddy straw,” a participant in the NTPC tender process said.
“If we talk about raw pellets, NTPC has mandated for only two plants to source at least 50 per cent of their farm produce from Punjab and Haryana. Now since paddy straw is not mandated, mustard husk and groundnut shell from closer to the Rajasthan border is making its way into the bidding criteria. Paddy straw husk is coming from a lot further and more processing is required for it, then it is not as competitive. This approach is not really solving the farm stubble burning problem from around the NCR,” he added.
According to another official in the know, NTPC had started commercial scale firing last year at Dadri, it has consumed about 8,000 tonnes of agro residue-based pellets, which otherwise would have contributed to farm fires. It is equivalent to approximately 4,000 acres of farm fires.