BHEL develops innovative flexible coal boiler for power plants

In a rare instance of a public-sector company coming up with a crucial innovation, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), has designed a new boiler for coal-powered power plants that can help them deal with fluctuations in imported and Indian coal.


Indian coal, though much cheaper, is of poor carbon content and cannot be used in boilers meant for dealing with high-carbon imported coal and vice versa. India has one of the world’s largest deposits of coal, though of the low-grade variety.

“This new boiler design is based on a unique combination of indigenous and imported coals but is capable of firing both extremes of 100% domestic coal as well as 100% imported coal. It will provide developers with much needed freedom regarding the ratio of blending as well as the characteristics of the domestic and imported coal to be blended,” a statement said.

“This enables the boiler to work over the entire range of blending ratios and would protect the project developer against the vagaries in coal availability, thereby providing him with an opportunity to operate the plant throughout the year.”

BHEL has been designing boilers for the past 30 years and has extensive experience of designing boilers fired with indigenous as well as imported coals exhibiting wide variations in properties.

India’s Power Generation is mainly Coal based and the Power Sector is currently plagued by coal shortages where Power Plants are stranded due to non-availability of Indigenous Coal supplies. Many Indian power plants are functioning below their optimum levels due to supply crunches.

This has triggered a series of Companies to either resort to operating the plant on part load due to non-availability of domestic coal or make up for the shortfall by blending indigenous coal with imported coal. “Being heterogeneous in nature, the properties of coal vary from source to source. The performance of Power equipment is dependent on the coal being fed to the power plant.”

BHEL has an advanced state of the art Coal Research Centre at its Tiruchirapally plant which will be used to identify the unique combination of blended coal after carrying out the analysis of imported and domestic coal samples supplied by the customers. The associated boiler auxiliaries, also manufactured by BHEL, will be designed to accommodate the variation during firing of different type of fuels.

India has a lot of state-owned companies in the power and other heavy infrastructure sector. The companies also have many talented people in them, but a culture that discourages change and innovation and values continuity and conformity has led to many government companies falling into oblivion or being dependent on the government for funding support to carry on their businenss.