A case study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has pointed to the availability of PNG (piped natural gas) and price hikes of natural gas as key issues.
With a complete ban on the use of the coal in the NCR from January 1 onwards, the switch to cleaner fuel for industries has come with challenges including high prices and limited supply of natural gas, and emissions from the use of biomass.
A case study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has pointed to the availability of PNG (piped natural gas) and price hikes of natural gas as key issues. “With the high price of gas, industries are either reducing production, have started looking for land outside the NCR or have increased the prices of their product. Some industrial units are now following a policy of wait-and-watch,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, who is part of the industrial pollution team at CSE.
The case study looked at two industrial clusters in Alwar district, Rajasthan – the Bhiwadi and Matsya industrial areas. In Bhiwadi, which has around 349 industrial units, PNG pipelines are available and industries are switching towards PNG, CSE’s report noted. In contrast, the Matsya industrial area with 61 industries is still awaiting PNG infrastructure and industries are mostly shifting to the use of biomass instead of coal.
The use of biomass or crop residue like paddy straw comes with a different set of challenges. “In Alwar, biomass is available in plenty and industry had begun using biomass a few years ago since it is cheaper than most other fuels. A boiler using biomass as fuel is required to comply with certain emission standards. But reducing emissions using biomass as fuel is difficult and this will have to be monitored,” Yadav explained.
While some industries have reported that suppliers have restricted access to 70 to 80% of the contracted PNG quantity citing limited supply, other units have said that they had applied for PNG connections after the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) ordered a transition to cleaner fuel, but were yet to receive supply due to “availability issues”. The CSE report noted: “Due to the Ukraine war crisis, cost of PNG went up significantly from Rs 52 to Rs 72/scm (standard cubic meter) between June and December 2022. It was only Rs 24/scm in 2021.”
On the way forward, Yadav said: “We wouldn’t want a scenario where industries are forced to leave NCR, considering the employment. Gas will have to be brought under GST. Industries should be able to use gas as an affordable fuel.”