Tuesday 23 October 2007

Auto emission norms India

Business India, May 31-June 13, 1999

Clearing up emissions

Thanks to the Supreme Court, Indian consumers will see a major leap in automotive technology and fuel quality

Shivanand Kanavi

By the stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court pushed the Indian auto industry into a technological leap. Since then, the media has been filled with smog about Euro-I and Euro-II for almost two weeks. But what are these norms and more importantly what are the factors responsible for the high levels of auto emissions and what are the technologies available for mitigating them? Which of these technologies are likely to be brought into India to meet the new norms? These are some of the questions that Business India looked into.

Not that the technologies involved in abating auto-emissions are of the cutting edge variety, but Indian consumers have been denied them for two reasons. First of all, they need further investments in automotive engines, catalytic converters, and oil refineries and secondly they would push up the price of an automobile by about 10 per cent in a highly price sensitive market.

But the increasing awareness about the health hazards posed by constituents of auto exhaust like smoke (particulate matter), nitrogen oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene, unburnt fuel (HC), lead and so on, especially in highly congested Indian cities, has been steadily forcing the government and the auto industry to gear up to cut the emissions. Accordingly, the government brought in unleaded petrol in 1996 in the metro cities and brought in new emission norms into force the same year.

The ministry of surface transport moved to notify India 2000 norms in August 1997. These norms were derived from the Euro-I norms (see table). They required lower sulphur levels and the refineries were advised to invest in hydro-desulphurisation to reduce sulphur content in diesel to 0.25 per cent.

It is important to understand that the emissions from an engine depend on how the engine is driven. How frequently do you brake? How frequently do you shift gears? What are your cruising speeds? What is your top speed? Do you check the emissions after the engine is warmed up or from a cold start? What about emissions due to evaporation of fuel from the automobile? And so on and so forth. A detailed study of the actual driving conditions: road conditions, traffic conditions, rush hour, off rush hour etc. has to be made. Then one arrives at what auto engineers call, the driving cycle. Then there are two ways of testing the vehicles: the engine dynamometer test and the chassis dynamometer test.

Thus Euro norms are not just some figures for various constituents of exhaust but also they per force specify the European Driving Cycle. Thus our table is a highly simplified version of the norms and does not cover two-three wheelers. Developing the driving cycle is a long drawn out affair and the data needs to be continuously updated as traffic conditions and road conditions change. So, for pragmatic reasons, the European Driving Cycle has been adopted with some modifications, like the top speed of 120 kmph has been reduced to 90 kmph.

The industry was gearing up to meet the Euro-I norms by 1 April 2000 in terms of vendor development, engine improvement, etc, and so were the refiners gearing up to improve fuel quality. There was also discussion going on about further cutting down emissions by 2005, which would be more in consonance with the Euro-II norms. However the increasing pollution in Delhi, (though polluting vehicles are not the only culprits) led the Supreme Court to bring forward the deadline for India-2000 norms to 1 June 1999, instead of 1 April 2000, as far as Delhi is concerned. The government was also directed to notify the equivalent of Euro-II norms with utmost speed and bring them into effect from 1 April 2000 - a five-year leap. The move naturally sent the automobile manufacturers into a tizzy. Though the order pertains to the National Capital Region around Delhi - which has the dubious distinction of being the fourth most polluted city in the world - it is clear that this might soon be extended all over India.

Despite a battery of the best and brightest lawyers arguing for extension of the deadlines on behalf of the auto manufacturers the court stuck to its guns. Now, work has to be taken up on a war footing on several fronts to achieve
these laudable objectives. First of all, the government has to quickly notify the Euro-II norms (for want of a better term). The Automobile Research Association of India (ARAI), an industry funded organisation that is affiliated to the industry ministry, has to gear itself up for quick certification of various models that are going to pour into its labs. S.R. Puranik, director of the lab, says the institute has already certified nearly seven petrol driven models and 11 diesel driven models for India 2000. He pointed out that once the Euro-I1 norms are notified ARAI can do the emission tests in two-three days per model and the detailed certification under Central Motor Vehicle Regulation which requires noise and safety tests along with emission tests in two-three weeks per model.

Another important issue is the quality of fuel required to meet the Euro-II norms. The question of fuel quality has to be addressed very seriously since the new norms will require not 0.25 per cent of sulphur but 0.05 per cent. So far only Reliance has said that it will be able to supply such fuel from July 1999, when its giant 27 million-tonne refinery goes on stream. Others are still working out the consequences of these norms. A.K. Jain and K.K. Gandhi, scientists at the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, point out that the fuel required to satisfy lower emission norms has to satisfy several criteria. For example, the sulphur content of petrol has to be brought down as well. Moreover, benzene and aromatic content has to brought down, volatility of the fuel has to be controlled carefully as it influences' the warm up time and evaporative emissions, oxygenated blend components to reduce co and HC emissions have to be added, multifunctional additives to control deposit formation within the engine have to be added and so on. Similarly, according to Jain and Gandhi, the diesel required has to not only have 0.05 per cent sulphur but also a lower density, lower boiling point (from 370 celsius to 340 celsius) higher cetane number (from 45 to 49-53 low aromatics, good oxidation stability and lesser amount of heavy cuts blended.

While the refiners upgrade themselves to meet these requirements, auto component manufacturers and auto makers have a lot of work to do. Automobile engines, be they petrol fuelled or diesel fuelled, are powered by burning fuel inside the engine in an explosive fashion. In a petrol engine, a mixture of petrol and air is compressed and is ignited by a spark from the spark plug. The combustion, however, takes place best when the air to fuel ratio is 14.7. However, even the most sophisticated carburettors rarely achieve this ratio and definitely not under all driving conditions. A multi point fuel injection (MPFI) system, which is controlled by a micro chip called electronic control unit (ECU) can achieve much less emissions and better fuel efficiency in petrol engines. Better combustion lowers HC and co emissions but can lead to higher NOX emissions. Improved catalytic converters like pre-heated or dose loop ones can take care of most of the noxious matter.

In the case of diesel engines, turbo charging inter-cooling, exhaust gas re-circulation, de-Nox catalytic converters, higher injection pressures, particulate traps and so on can similarly ensure that Euro-II norms are met. The technologies likely to be brought into India at the moment are multi point fuel injection with electronic control unit (not the state of the art engine management system), better catalytic converters, higher injection pressures for diesel engines and at least' soft' turbo charging - that is turbo charging to cut emissions but not for increasing the power since that will require major changes in the drive train. It is estimated that the new technologies can cost up to 10 per cent of the present vehicle price.

These are all proven technologies; though none of them are cutting edge the issue is: can changes in mass production be made within the stipulated time at the lowest cost to consumers? The coming months will prove as to who among the various vehicle makers is up to the task.

Process Engineering, de-bottlencking, Chemical Industry

Business India, December 28-January 10, 1999
More from less

Debottlenecking has become a mantra to help chemical companies stay a float during hard times

Shivanand Kanavi

For years, M.M. Sharma, FRS, the doyen of Indian chemical engineers, used tacky slogans in every chemical industry meet to propagate the importance of clever R&D for healthy bottom lines. "More from less!", "Convert liabilities into assets!", "Knowledge engineering!" were some of them. The response was mixed. Protected markets and lack of serious domestic competition due to licensing were hardly the ideal conditions to breed lean and mean companies. However, the current hard times have more than convinced many businessmen of the wisdom of these words. In smart companies, these slogans have led the effort in intensive debottleneckrng, leading to tangible benefits. The list of 'smart' companies is long. It includes giants like Reliance, IPCL, the psu oil refineries engaged in commodity chemical business as well as midsize players like Arti Organics, Herdillia Chemicals, Excel, Bombay Oil, Hindustan Organic Chemicals, Atul and Alkyl Amines who have a mixed portfolio of commodity and specialty chemicals or purely specialty chemical players in the pharmaceutical industry like Ranbaxy.

It is not that the tongue twister, "debottlenecking" is new to the chemical industry. In fact, under the licence raj many companies used to report that they debottlenecked and increased the capacity at an incremental cost, as soon as the government increased their licensed capacity. This made their claims largely suspect. It was assumed that the declared capacity was understated in the first place. With liberalisation, there is no incentive to understate capacity. Now, chemical imports are pushing the price level down, export markets are under great pressure, most greenfield projects are being shelved, profit margins are thin and any incremental innovation is welcomed. Thus, debottlenecking is turning into a fine art.

The word "debottlenecking", though it does not occur in any dictionary, means removing the bottlenecks in a process. The exercise consists of identifying the bottlenecks and then removing them one by one. There are many levels at which the process works. The more pedestrian level is of making a physical analysis of the equipment in the plant like pumps, compressors and distillation columns. This can lead to clues to increasing the capacity of particular compressors, pumps, etc, leading to higher throughput. This can be called level one debottlenecking. Due to overdesign by plant designers (as they have to give guaranteed performance in terms of throughput, quality, etc) there is always scope to increase the plant rough put by 25 per cent with hardly ny additional investment. A more thor ugh analysis and some marginal investment can readily yield 50-60 per cent increase. For example, Reliance is currently manufacturing about 250,000 tonnes of PT A from a 180,000-tpa plant at Patalganga near Mumbai. There are reasons to believe that soon it may go up to even 300,000 tonnes. The lessons learnt here are being readily applied in the larger plants at Hazira, where two 350,000-tonne PTA plants are being fine-tuned to yield 500,000 tonnes each. Some RIL engineers believe that this can be further increased to 600,000 tonnes each. In fact, ICI plants in Wilton, UK were debottlenecked after learning from the experience at Reliance.

The second level consists of improving the design of equipment like columns, heat exchangers and reactors. -Por example, using appropriate packing in a distillation column, changing the contact surface, etc, can change the throughput. Similarly, studying impeller design in the reactor, or in plain English, "stirring the brew properly" can increase reaction rates. "The first thing is to find out what are the factors limiting the reaction rate in a plant," says Prof. J.B. Joshi of the University Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT), Mumbai, one of the busiest industry consultants. Without mentioning names of companies, for confidentiality reasons, Joshi reels out example after example, of benefits from applying scientific methods to debottlenecking. In fact, he derives great intellectual satisfaction from these exercises. As a result of his extensive research into reactor design, using hitech tools like laser dopplerimetry, and vast consulting experience, he teaches a course on multiphase reactor design at UDCT, only one of its kind in world.

"One needs to do just about 40-50 laboratory experiments in a small one- litre capacity reactor to understand the process," Joshi claims. He has developed new methods involving Gamma Ray Tomography to study running plants without disturbing them. The results have been so fantastic that he is one of the most sought after consultants by even international giants like ICI. For example, his work has improved the process developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, for cracking heavy petroleum residue in a refinery (vis breaking) to get more diesel and kerosene.The non-invasive Gamma Ray Tomography technique is being applied to "vis breaking" at the IOC refinery, near Baroda, which can yield a 10 per cent increase in the middle distillates (diesel, kerosene, naphtha). In plants of millions of tonnes of capacity, this can be a substantial gain. In fact, this is an example of advanced debottlenecking where quality and composition of the products can be changed without any significant addition of equipment. The end is achieved purely through better reactor and process design. Another striking example of this is the way Reliance has understood the PVC process. The result: a PVC plant designed to produce 180,000 tpa is today producing nearly 300,000 tpa, thereby amazing even the licensors - Geon. Reliance consistently beats financial analysts’ projections by seating it plants, turning into reality Sharma's catch phrase, "more from less".

Joshi points out such work can give " better quality products with lower impurity profile, higher selectivity and lesser load on the environment Contrary to common perception, both Joshi and Sharma emphasise the fact that debottlenecking is not just for large commodity chemical companies but will yield even higher returns for specialty chemical companies. Joshi cites the case of a company which was making a specialty chemical with a market price of about Rs200 a kg. The detailed analysis of the process led to a 20 per cent increase in the yield almost increasing the profit margin by Rs40 a kg. This is a win-win exercise. Not only does the company benefit through better margins but the quantum of effluents, as in the case of dyes and pharma companies, can also be greatly reduced through better conversion. "In many cases a 100 per cent material balance can be established," claims Joshi. Practically nothing will be wasted. This is what Sharma calls "converting liabilities into assets".

Rajeev Pandia, managing director, Herdillia Chemicals, who applied some of Sharma's recipes, concurs: "Some of the waste products which we were burning were converted into fumaric acid, and there were even times when the price of fumaric acid in the market was higher than that of the primary product, pthalic anhydride," he adds.

The next level of debottlenecking is termed knowledge engineering by Sharma. This might involve development of new and better catalysts with higher selectivity, etc. At times the developments have already occurred elsewhere in the world and one needs to understand them and change the catalysts.

"All these steps require a certain willingness on the part of the management to take risks," says Joshi and this he claims to have found in plenty in mid-sized companies with Rs100-500 crore turnover. The returns to companies too have been handsome.

"There are other side benefits of this debottlenecking exercise", claims Pandia. "The multidisciplinary engineering team from technical services, R&D, operations, etc, which gets involved, gets so charged by this process, that it has very good HRD benefits," he adds. A senior Grasim executive confirms this. He claims that debottlenecking is a highly creative process and he greatly enjoyed it when he was a plant R&D engineer.

When the exports are under severe pressure and there is heavy competition from crisis-hit Asian countries, one way to ensure you don't lose your markets is to supply products of premium quality consistently. Debottlenecking helps in achieving this, claims Joshi, and cites the success in exports of Arti Organics, Alkyl Amines, Herdillia Chemicals and so on.

Observers of East Asia claim that many companies there are becoming leaner and meaner during the present crisis and might come out with even more vigour internationally at the end of the crisis. Complacent Indian companies who take shelter in the fact that the crisis in India is not so severe might thus be jolted out of their wits in a couple of years. However, the industrial downturn has definitely made some Indian companies smarter and more productive. Realising its importance, the Indian Chemical Manufacturers Association is planning a workshop on debottlenecking for the benefit of its members. The unpronounceable word is obviously yielding pronounced results.