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Ias library current affairs 23-4-2018

Clean Coal Technology


GS Prelims, GS Mains paper III

Sci-tech, Non-renewable energy, Thermal energy, Coal gasification method, Clean coal technology


  • A team of scientists from IIT-Madras used a well known Coal-Gasification method for producing clean-coal technology in thermal power plants.

Did you know?

  • In spite of the rapid increase in power generation from renewable sources like wind and solar, over 60% of India’s electricity is still generated in thermal power plants.
  • The government launched SHAKTI scheme last year for transparent allocation of future coal linkages.

Coal is going to be a passé:

  • Most countries, including India, have plans to phase out coal over the next few decades. India, in fact, has officially announced that it would not set up any new coal-fired power plants after 2022.
  • In spite of the rapid increase in power generation from renewable sources like wind and solar, over 60% of India’s electricity is still generated in thermal power plants.
  • Thus coal would continue to be the mainstay of India’s energy mix for at least three more decades.
  • But how can we ensure that the pollution from the thermal plants is minimized?
  • “Clean coal technologies” is the answer to coal pollution.
  • The modern “super-critical” power plants also emit lesser pollutants.

How thermal power plants produce electricity?

  • In most of the thermal power plants, coal is burnt in order to heat up the water. This water produces steam, which further runs the turbines.
  • In this process, a lot of CO2 is released, which is a green house gas.
  • In this conventional method, a lot of ash-fly is also generated, which is a major contributor of air pollution.
  • Indian variety of coal has relatively high ash content.

How does the new technology work?

  • It will produce less CO2 and instead generate SYNGAS (Synthetic Gas), which comprises of CO (Carbon Mono-oxide) and Hydrogen.
  • This SYNGAS can be used a clean fuel gas.
  • A well-known coal gasification technique in which coal is only partially burnt with a very limited supply of oxygen in the ‘bubbling fluidized bed gasification reactor’.
  • At about 100 degree celsius, all moisture from the coal is drained out.
  • At higher temperatures, between 300 and 400 degree celsius, gaseous fuels trapped inside coal, like nitrogen, methane and a mixture of many other hydrocarbons, are released.
  • When temperatures reach between 800-900 degree celsius, the carbon in the coal starts reacting with oxygen in the air, as well as steam supplied along with air, to form carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • By controlling the amount of air and steam, it can be ensured that significant amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) are formed.
  • Production of CO2, which is a greenhouse gas, can be minimized.
  • It has been found that the addition of steam becomes favourable in the case of high-ash Indian coals.
  • The researchers also showed that adding biomass, like rice husk along with Indian coal imparts catalytic effect and improves the gasification performance significantly.

Challenge in using this technology:

  • High cost: The existing power plants would need to replace their traditional reactors with gasification reactors. This is a high cost proposition and will take a lot of time.


India and the Commonwealth


GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II, Political Science Optional

International relations, Commonwealth of Nations, India and Commonwealth, CHOGM


  • PM Narendra Modi paid a visit to the UK.
  • The visit is the third bilateral between the two Prime Ministers since 2015, as Britain has sought to emphasise the potential for growth in trade with non-EU partners once Britain leaves the EU.
  • Later, the PM also participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in London.

A background on the Commonwealth of Nations:

  • As the British Empire began its process of decolonization and the creation of independent states from former British colonies, there arose a need for an organization of countries formerly part of the Empire.
  • Thus, in 1931, the British Commonwealth of Nations was founded under the Statute of Westminster with five initial members.
  • In 1946, the word “British” was dropped and the organization became known as simply the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • With India’s independence in 1947, the new country desired to become a Republic and to not utilize the monarchy as their head of state.
  • The London Declaration of 1949 modified the requirement that members must view the monarchy as their head of state to require that countries recognize the monarchy as simply the leader of the Commonwealth.

Discussions and Commitments during the visit:

  • India assured that there will be no dilution in the importance given to the UK post Brexit.
  • The two sides also signed a statement of shared values, emphasising support for a “global outlook and commitment to a rules-based international system.”
  • The government announced £1 billion worth of investments into the UK by Indian firms.
  • Britain and India agreed to forge a new India, UK Trade Partnership, building on the trade review carried out over the past year, focussing on life sciences, IT, food and drink.
  • A UK-India Tech Partnership, and research partnership was also agreed.
  • The issue of the chemical weapon attacks in Syria and Salisbury were also discussed, with both leaders making clear their opposition to the use of chemical weapons in all circumstances.
  • They also discussed priorities for the Indo-Pacific area and to work closely to ensure it remained free and open.
  • They discussed defence and security cooperation, agreeing to work together closely to combat terrorism, radicalisation and online extremism.

Commonwealth 2.0: Relevance for India and World

  • The British, as they prepare to exit the EU, are looking afresh at the Commonwealth, hoping to breathe life back into the 53-member grouping and create a “Commonwealth 2.0”.
  • Before the summit, Indian diplomats pointed out India wants freer travel and greater access for Indian skilled labour in exchange for any special trade deals.
  • Other Commonwealth leaders too see improved visa access for their citizens as a quid-pro-quo for more trade.
  • The Commonwealth includes 2.3 billion of the world’s population and resource-rich nations like Canada, Australia and African countries.
  • Modi and May laid the ground for a possible post-Brexit free-trade deal, though its negotiation could take some time.
  • For India, though, there may be economic bnefits for being in a closer relationship with the Commonwealth as it’s a club to which China does not belong.
  • In the present, India is poised to overtake Britain’s aggregate GDP in the next year or two.
  • The International Monetary Fund puts Britain’s GDP in 2017 at $2.56 trillion and India’s at $2.43 trillion.
  • It’s about time India got over the defensive mindset in relation to a former colonial power.
  • Here, the contrast between India and China is sharp. Beijing is not arguing with London about the opium wars or Britain’s leading role in China’s “hundred year humiliation”.
  • Instead, they are trying to seduce Britain, especially the city of London, into China’s commercial and financial orbit.
  • The Commonwealth could devote considerable energies towards the promotion of sustainable development and maritime security, which pose existential challenges to the many small and island states in the forum.

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