Posted on August 2nd, 2013


Power and Energy minister said plans are under way to launch construction work on the 500 MW Sampur coal power project at Trincomalee, a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC) of India. The project has been approved by the board with out completing a feasibility report according to the former minister which Sunday times reported.

The project report has been referred to the Attorney General for approval. When approval is obtained, the Ministry will give the green light for the CEB and the NTPC to go ahead with the project.

Construction work on the Sampur project is scheduled to commence this year and its power generation will be linked to the national grid by mid 2016, the present Minister told the Sunday Observer.

It is reported in the Indian news paper that coal India chairmen has agreed to supply the imported coal to their power plants on cost basis. I do not know what concessions Srilanka gets agreeing to this deal from India and whether they would supply good coal from another country or the Indian coal which has high ash content of 45%

Coal is cheap, plentiful and dirty — as cheap as dirt, as plentiful as dirt, and as dirty as dirt. But Indian Coal is very dirty because of its complex origin and contains more impurities compared to other Coal deposits in the world .According to the reports published the origin of Indian coal is through drift theory, as a result of which the coal matter is intimately mixed with mineral matter causing deterioration in its quality. Coal of most of the other coal producing countries originates through insitu theory in which the possibility of deterioration of the quality is far less during its formation stage. Indian coal due to its origin has some inherent ash content and some extraneous ash content. The inherent ash cannot be taken away because it is embedded in the coal in such a fine manner that you just cannot take it off. Extraneous ash can is taken care of by washing. The wash-ability curve shows that to reduce ash below a certain limit, there is too much of rejects in it and each percentage of ash reduction in the coal will cost enormous amount of money.

The heat combustion usually represented by (GSV) known as gross calorific value. The average of total coal supplied to the Indian power sectors during the past few years has been the order of (GSV) 4900Kcal/Kg. This is far below the imported coal which often exceeds 6900 Kcal/Kg.

A 500 megawatt coal power plant needs 1.430,000 ton of Coal 146,000 tons of limestone and 2.2 billion gallons of water annually.

If lime stone is one of the requirement in the 500 megawatt coal power plant is it available in Trincomalee or has to be transported from some where? I understand the KKS cement factory the production going to re commence by end of this year which was defunct for some time due to terrorism in the north. Since we are short of Lime stone for our own requirements in the country whether this too may have to be imported?

2.2 billion gallons of water is required annually for the 550 mega watt plant is there enough water in the area. ? During my days at the geological survey it was the work of our department who did the foundation investigations and water supply for most Corporation and Boards in the country.

The research done in USA on a 550 mega watt coal plant where the ash content is far less compared to the Indian Coal and collection of data annually gave the following results. The impact on the environment and the off side effects are given below for information to the reader

10,000 tons of sulphur dioxides. Sulphur dioxide (SOx) is the main cause of acid rain, which damages forests, lakes and buildings.

10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is a major cause of smog, and also a cause of acid rain.

3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, and is the leading cause of global warming. There are no regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

500 tons of small particles. Small particulates are a health hazard, causing lung damage. Particulates smaller than 10 microns are not regulated, but may be soon.

220 tons of hydrocarbons. Fossil fuels are made of hydrocarbons; when they don’t burn completely, they are released into the air. They are a cause many health issues asthma and lung cancer

720 tons of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas and contributor to global warming

125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A scrubber uses powdered limestone and water to remove pollution from the plants exhaust instead of going into the air, the pollution goes into a landfill.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This ash and sludge consists of coal ash, limestone, and many pollutants, such as toxic metals like lead and mercury.

225pounds of arsenic, 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, and many other toxic heavy metals. Mercury emissions from coal plants are suspected of contaminating lakes and rivers in northern and northeast states and Canada. In Wisconsin alone, more than 200 lakes and rivers are contaminated with mercury. Health officials warn against eating fish caught in these waters, since mercury can cause birth defects, brain damage and other ailments. Acid rain also causes mercury poisoning by leaching mercury from rocks and making it available in a form that can be taken up by organisms

Trace elements of uranium. All but 16 of the 92 naturally occurring elements have been detected in coal, mostly as trace elements below 0.1 percent (1,000 parts per million, or ppm). A study by department of environment of Oak Ridge National Lab found that radioactive emissions from coal combustion are greater than those from nuclear power production.

The 2.2 billion gallons of water it uses for cooling is raised 16 degrees F on average before being discharged into a lake or river. By warming the water year-round it changes the habitat of that body of water.

Sampur the 550 mega watt plant prospect is located in the Trincomalee district in the North East of Srilanka.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  There are many villages to the South of this plant such as Seruwila, SomapuraƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Mahindapura mostly Sinhalese and also Tamil and Muslim Villages where their lively hood depend on Paddy cultivation. The acid rain due to emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide will destroy the paddy fields and the hot water discharge from the plant definitely has an impact on ground water and the environment.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Just imagine the pollution with 35 to 45% ash content if Indian Coal is being used. Therefore selecting a site is very important so that it will not affect the livelihood of the people and just not giving to the demands to the countries with vested interests.

When the world had 42% coal fired electricity, Sri Lanka had nil. When the world had 16% hydro, Sri Lanka had 45% which reflected the use of abundantƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ water resources. Yet there was no price advantage to the consumer. The unit price of electricity is the determinant factor to the consumer in selecting the source of energy being used by the country, Hydro power costs 3-3 cents nuclear 3.5 cents natural gas 3.7 cents coal 4,1 cents and wind 4.6cents per /kwh respectively in the US according to a study in 2012.

Whether the Sampur power plant will help the consumer is a big question? What I believe is that Sampur power plant is more beneficial to India politically and economically than to Srilanka.


  1. Lorenzo Says:

    This coal power plant should be set up in Jaffna NOT Trinco.

    That should teach the Endians a lesson.

  2. aloy Says:

    Thank you very much for informing the readers of Lankaweb on the dangers of a Coal fired power plant in Trinco. I remember similar arguments came and delayed the project when GOSL was considering the setting up of Norochchalai which somehow up to now Sri Lankans view as a white elephant due to mishandling by greedy politicians, seeking %. Come next drought we can predict how this much talked about plant will work plunging us in darkness again. As a concerned citizen of this country (not an expert) I would like to suggest the following course of action:

    Decide whether we should give access to Trinco to Indians who are always working against us in every forum. If we give access, the first thing they will do is bring in lot of Tamils from India to work, thereby increasing the Tamil problem further.
    Find out whether this type of plants are operating successfully in India itself and if so how they have overcome the environmental issues mentioned in above write up. If this is acceptable hand over the handling of this plant to a technically competent minister who should ensure the installation is done by our own engineers and manage, if necessary with some guidance from Indian technical personnel.
    If the above is not acceptable to India or GOSL, just scrap it.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Apart from noting and acting on the fact that use of COAL is unsuitable for energy purposes, Lanka Economists must take a good hard look at the Crude Oil existing off Lanka shores & the many uses of Crude Oil. There are 6,000 plus uses (mainly from various plastics off Crude Oil) of Crude Oil in our needs which can generate local jobs & industries and boost the Economy.

    Here are some of the uses of Crude Oil ::

    A partial list of products made from Petroleum (144 of 6000 items)

    One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make things like:

    Diesel fuel
    Motor Oil
    Bearing Grease
    Floor Wax
    Ballpoint Pens
    Football Cleats
    Bicycle Tires
    Sports Car Bodies
    Nail Polish
    Fishing lures
    Golf Bags
    Dishwasher parts
    Tool Boxes
    Shoe Polish
    Motorcycle Helmet
    Petroleum Jelly
    Transparent Tape
    CD Player
    Faucet Washers
    Food Preservatives
    Vitamin Capsules
    Panty Hose
    Life Jackets
    Rubbing Alcohol
    TV Cabinets
    Shag Rugs
    Electrician’s Tape
    Tool Racks
    Car Battery Cases
    Insect Repellent
    Oil Filters
    Hair Coloring
    Toilet Seats
    Fishing Rods
    Denture Adhesive
    Ice Cube Trays
    Synthetic Rubber
    Plastic Wood
    Electric Blankets
    Tennis Rackets
    Rubber Cement
    Fishing Boots
    Nylon Rope
    Trash Bags
    House Paint
    Water Pipes
    Hand Lotion
    Roller Skates
    Surf Boards
    Paint Rollers
    Shower Curtains
    Guitar Strings
    Safety Glasses
    Football Helmets
    Ice Chests
    CD’s & DVD’s
    Paint Brushes
    Sun Glasses
    Heart Valves
    Artificial Turf
    Artificial limbs
    Model Cars
    Folding Doors
    Hair Curlers
    Cold cream
    Movie film
    Soft Contact lenses
    Drinking Cups
    Fan Belts
    Car Enamel
    Shaving Cream
    Golf Balls
    Americans consume petroleum products at a rate of three-and-a-half gallons of oil and more than
    250 cubic feet of natural gas per day each! But, as shown here petroleum is not just used for fuel.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    Thinking on the lines of our own resources, permit me to digress into food and food safety.

    We must not make the mistake we did with Tea where we were selling it in bulk Tea chests to U.K. where they were blending it with inferior African tea and selling it as Ceylon Tea giving us a bad name. The profit made by selling packeted tea was 5 times the profit made by selling Tea in bulk. We should not sell the crude oil in bulk. It should be processed in to high value products and then sell them.

    It is also important to realize that most of the plastics made and used today are hormone disrupters and cause weight gain, and reduction of male hormones etc. Read

    Canned foods with BPA in the lining can cause all of the above problems. Safety and health in packaging is very important. Europe has banned BPA in can lining which means they have to use PET laminated cans.

    It is best to eat fresh Organic wherever possible and like Bhutan we should go completely Organic. This would increase our income from Tea, and all fresh produce and in addition will make our people healthier.

  5. . Says:

    U. Sapukotana Says
    Thank you for publishing the above article in your esteemed site. I am certain that this article offered a new dimension to the whole issue of the Indian coal plant. All his arguments are based on hard facts. Mr. Pathirana is in a unique position to comment on the issue in view his expertise in the field and also his familiarity of the Trinco district. He serviced Trinco as a senior Geologist and a Deputy Director of the Dept of Geological Survey for over 20 years.

    Depleting resources of Indian coal can impact on the quality of the Coal further. Even at present the Indian coal is relativfely of a lesser quality compared to the coals of other countries.

    The impact of coal plants on the environment and on human health is well documented. It is surprising that these issues were not factored in when the feasibility studies and Environment Impact Assessment ( EIA) were undertaken.
    I believe there is provision for either party to re visit the issues before the contract is signed.

    Yours sincerely
    U. Sapukotana

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