Alternatives available, but industries oppose fuel ban

Alternatives available, but industries oppose fuel ban

Bhiwadi Industrial Association has moved the Supreme Court seeking relaxation of the ban on the use of cheap and polluting pet coke and furnace oil by industries in the national capital region(NCR).

Although the industries have sought more time to implement the ban, the minutes of a recent meeting of the SC-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) reveal that the industrial areas in NCR has adequate piped natural gas supply. If implemented immediately, the ban, which came into effect on November 1, can help in fighting air pollution this winter, said experts.

On October 31, EPCA met power plants, natural gas suppliers, oil companies and pollution control boards to discuss the implementation of the ban.

While GAIL India supplies piped gas to Bhiwadi, Neemrana, Meerut and Sonepat, IGL supplies to Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Rewari, Haryana City Gas Distribution Ltd to Gurgaon and Adani Gas to Khurja, Palwal and Faridabad. EPCA said NCR industries had alleged the gas companies not only demanded a high initial deposit but also took too long to give the connection. It directed the companies to provide optimum customer service and supply gas at competitive rates to facilitate the shift from polluting fuels.

Most industries use the polluting fuels as these are cheaper than natural gas, coal and diesel. “If they are using furnace oil, then moving to gas is feasible as the cost of energy is roughly the same. But industries using pet coke will find the cost of gas to be higher. They have the option of moving to coal, which is slightly more expensive but will still be better in terms of pollution. But they will have to install pollution control equipment. Both options exist and will bring massive pollution benefits,” an EPCA member told TOI.

Natural gas company representatives informed EPCA that they had visited some industries in NCR but were told about use of alternative fuels such as carbon black feed stock (CBFS). EPCA, however, said CBFS also came under the category of the banned furnace oil.

The gas companies pointed out that while the tax on pet coke or furnace oil was credited back to industries, this was not the case with natural gas as it was not covered by GST. EPCA agreed to monitor it and resolve any issue regarding the supply.

EPCA also directed all three pollution control boards to carry out random inspections to identify violations of the SC order and submit regular reports to the SC body on the fuels being used by the industries.

The Union power ministry informed EPCA that the region had surplus power and could, therefore, meet additional industrial demand. The last-mile distribution is still an issue but the ministry is willing to help in improving the infrastructure, said the EPCA minutes.

Last year, EPCA had found that these extremely dirty and cheap fuels with sulphur levels as high as 20,000 to 74,000 ppm were being used in NCR.

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