Mechanical Coal Sampling- First step towards performance improvement

The Indian energy sector has been put under scrutiny as its efficiency is around 40%. The power plants in India face a major challenge due to the growing need for power generation on one side and the environmental hazard created by the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) from thermal plants. The performance of the Indian power plant sector remains under the close scrutiny of international agencies active in the sphere of environmental studies.
To achieve breakthrough improvement, a holistic approach focussing on fuel-burning efficiency is needed. A major step towards this improvement is the elimination of human intervention from the sampling of the incoming bulk material to the laboratory testing of the proximate and ultimate analysis of coal and to use these figures on process control to achieve the best burning efficiency.
In India, the sampling process suffers because it is largely manual. The processes adopted to collect samples are unsafe as a person has to climb the coal-carrying vehicle in day or night, during summer, rains, and in winter under the electric power line. The collection process renders the system undependable as the collection agent is the sole entity in both collection and quality assurance of the sample.
To have proper process control, India must move towards mechanized sample collection. A properly designed mechanized collection process eliminates human bias, helps in the collection of a truly representative sample from the bulk, and is safe to operate 24×7. Different mechanized systems are available for sampling of coal at the input point.
The advantage for the control team of the plant is that, they would receive a more accurate picture of the quality of the input material and can plan their actions accordingly. It not only helps to have a better process control providing better fuel efficiency but also a strong footing for negotiation with supply agency for proper pricing on GCV of the coal. Now that coal blocks are being privatized, there would be a level playing field between the vendor and user for negotiations.
Thus, an early action towards the introduction of the Mechanised sampling process to know what material is coming in, is of utmost importance.