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Mind of India’s Mining Leader Steel


Bureaucracy Today speaks to Neyveli Lignite Corporation Chairman and Managing Director B Surender Mohan about the strategy and the future plans for the Tamil Nadu-based Navratna PSU.  Excerpts from the in-depth interview

Mr. Surender Mohan, Sir what did you want to be in life during your school days? What were your aspirations?
My father was a Civil Engineer and was working in the Public Works Department of the Andhra Pradesh Government. My aim was also to become a Civil Engineer. However, due to better job opportunities in the mining sector in those days, my father rightly advised me to opt for mining as a career.  By becoming a Mining Engineer in the year 1977, I have now reached the present position of Chairman and Managing Director of a Navratna CPSU.

What are your future plans for the Neyveli Lignite Corporation? You  recently said that “the company will achieve the target of 11,500 MW capacity”. How will you achieve this?
The NLC operates four mines of a total capacity of 30.6 million tonnes of lignite per annum (three opencast mines of 28.5 million tonnes at Neyveli and one lignite mine of 2.1 million tonnes at Barsingsar, Rajasthan) and has a 2,740 MW power generating capacity (three thermal power stations of a total capacity of 2,490 MW at Neyveli and a thermal power station of a capacity of 250 MW at Barsingsar).At present, the NLC is implementing the 500 MW (2x250 MW) lignite-based Thermal Power Station -II Expansion project at Neyveli, a coal-based thermal power project of 1,000 MW(2x500 MW) capacity at Tuticorin (a joint venture with TANGEDCO), a new lignite-based 1,000 MW thermal power project at Neyveli (2x500 MW), a wind power plant (50 MW) and a solar P.V. project (10 MW).
The following projects are in the pipeline:
   A lignite-based thermal power station at Bithnok (250 MW) with a linked mine (2.25 MTPA) in  Rajasthan.
 The Barsingsar Thermal Power Station Extension (250 MW) with the linked Hadla and Palana Lignite Mine (2.5MTPA), Rajasthan.
   A coastal coal-based thermal power project (4,000 MW) at Sirkali, Tamil Nadu.
 A coal-based power plant at Ghatampur, UP (1980 MW), to be implemented through a joint venture company incorporated by the NLC and Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidhyut Uthpadhan Nigam Limited (UPRVUNL).The proposal has been submitted to the Government of India for sanction.
  TPS-II Second expansion by 1,000 MW and a linked lignite mine at Neyveli.
 The Devangudi Mine Project (2.0 MTPA).
At the end of the 12th Plan the NLC expects to achieve a lignite mining capacity of 38.85 MTPA compared to the present capacity of 30.60 MTPA. After 10 years, the NLC will have a total generating capacity of about 11,500 MW as against the present capacity of 2,740 MW.

What growth potential do you see for the NLC in Financial Year 2013-14?
In 2013-14, the NLC plans to commission the 2 x 250 MW TPS-II Expansion Project at Neyveli and a  2 x 500 MW coal-based power plant at Tuticorin being executed through a joint venture company. Thus the power capacity addition in 2013-14 will be 1,500 MW.
Further erection activity will commence in the lignite-based New Neyveli TPS of 1,000 MW at Neyveli which will replace the existing TPS-I of 600 MW.
I am also hopeful that site activities relating to the Ghatampur power project, a joint venture between the NLC and the UPRVUNL, will also commence in 2013-14. The process has been initiated for the acquisition of land.
What challenges have you faced as NLC CMD?
I took over as CMD on July 1, 2012. The NLC has well-laid down procedures and systems which ensure smooth functioning of various departments and their coordination. However, this does not preclude challenges. The challenges I encounter now include the adverse stripping ratio, which has gone up from about 1:4.5 to more than 1:7 (stripping ratio is the volume of soil to be removed in cubic metres to excavate one tonne of lignite), the thinning of lignite seam from 18m to 11m, problems associated with land acquisition and the huge outstanding dues from the Electricity Boards. In addition, I have to take mid-course corrections so that the company may move in the right direction towards achieving its goals.

Recently there was a case of equipment failure with the boilers. How do you plan to deal with this?
In the Barsingsar Project of the NLC in Rajasthan, the two circulating fluidized bed compression (CFBC) boilers of 125 MW capacity each had some teething problems. The BHEL, the contractor for the package, put up lot of effort to identify and neutralize the problem. The boilers did not require any modifications and with fine tuning of the operating parameters, one unit could be commissioned in December 2011 and the other in January 2012. The performance of the units is still under observation. Similarly, the TPS-II Expansion (250 MW) Project also has eco-friendly CFBC boilers. These are the largest CFBC boilers and the first of their kind in India. These boilers also have some areas which are to be looked into. The BHEL, the contractor, is in the process of finalizing a working plan to commission the units early.  Now it appears that unlike the boilers of the Barsingsar Project, these boilers may require certain modifications in the heat exchanger area. I expect that the first unit of this project will be commissioned shortly.

What are the new facilities that you have introduced in your Mining and Sales Departments?
The updation of technology is a constant process in the NLC.  In our mines, we have introduced the IT-based Maintenance Management System. The specialized mining equipments (SMEs) like bucket wheel excavators, spreaders and a system of conveyors with latest technologies such as variable voltage and variable frequency speed control have been employed. We are going in for Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)-based controls in our SMEs.
The automation of lignite storage and supply system in mines has been done. The NLC mines employ capital intensive specialised mining equipments. To ensure safe operation, latest safety gadgets and protection  and interlocks are provided. Only the surplus lignite (less than 5% of the total production) available after meeting the total requirement of the downstream units is earmarked for sales. The Sales Department has introduced e-auction which has resulted in transparency and better realization of revenue.We have introduced “Online Material Management System”, thus fully computerizing the material management function. Recently we have introduced e-procurement and e-payment.It is worth mentioning here that in all the mines of the NLC, computerized attendance monitoring system has been implemented. The NLC accords highest priority for safety and productivity. The company is always on the lookout for latest technologies which could be gainfully employed in the mines to improve safety and productivity.

Do you think that the energy supply is sufficient in our country? If no, then what steps should be taken?
No. There is a wide gap (9% to 11%) between demand and supply of power at present. As you are aware, the only way to bridge the gap is to go in for capacity addition in an accelerated pace exploiting not only conventional power generation but also tapping renewable resources. As far as lignite is concerned, only 15% of the reserves are mineable. The NLC is making all efforts to fully exploit these reserves to maximize power generation. In this regard I would like to say that even though the NLC mines are located in an adverse weather-prone area, the downstream-linked power stations have always supplied lignite to sustain power generation, while maintaining sufficient lignite stocks at the mine pithead and power stations.

There are always reports of misuse of the power grid system by States. What steps are being taken/should be taken to curb this practice?
Prior to the introduction of an availability-based tariff, the overdrawal of power by beneficiaries leading to major grid disturbances was frequent. After the introduction of ABT, such instances have very much come down.  The ABT regime has built-in checks and balances to ensure grid discipline. There is also disincentive for those who violate the norms in the form of unscheduled interchange charges. We may consider reviewing the existing protection systems and taking up modifications as required. It would be of immense help if we could develop a scheme to predict the possibility of a large-scale grid disturbance and initiate early action to avoid a grid collapse.

The NLC has been applauded for various Corporate Social Responsibility projects. How important do you think this is?

Earning and retaining the profit within the company goes to benefit only a narrow band of stakeholders. This will in no way help society at large. It is now clearly understood that the goodwill of the people is also very important for the growth of the company in the long run. Further all-round growth is only meaningful. Rapid growth of a section of society is undesirable as it may lead to social disturbances which may in turn affect the business of the company. Therefore, spending money on social upliftment will benefit both industry and society leading to all-round growth. Having realized this early, the NLC has been taking up projects that would meet the basic needs of surrounding villages of the project right from the 1980s. The NLC mainly undertakes projects relating to the provision of drinking water, education and roads in the needy areas. The NLC also imparts skills to members of the public to improve their employability.  The areas of such skill development include motor driving, tailoring and food preparation. Further the NLC regularly holds medical camps in villages.

What reforms do you think should come in the energy (power and mining) sector in India?
As I told you earlier, at present there exists a considerable gap (9% to 11%) between demand and supply of electricity. Our country is endowed with large mineral resources required by the energy sector. Exploitation of these minerals to fuel economic growth in a sustainable manner depends on many factors.  Therefore, it is not easy to find out a lasting solution for the exploitation of natural resources and achieving energy security. However, land acquisition and forest and environment clearances remain major issues for developing power and mining projects. Both the issues are very sensitive. They have attracted the attention of Government authorities and we may expect policies that would expedite the land acquisition and environment clearance process.Another area which needs attention is the development of infrastructure facilities like new railway lines/dedicated road corridors for transportation of coal and other minerals. Granting sizeable concessions for investment in this field will hasten progress.Further putting a suitable mechanism for ensuring a steady flow of funds (dues) from the beneficiaries (discoms) to power generating companies will facilitate taking up new projects.Owing to the effective steps taken by the Government, the specific capital cost of the solar power project, which was about three times that of the conventional power project, has substantially come down. Further measures to narrow the difference between the capital costs of conventional energy schemes and renewable energy schemes will attract investment in the development of renewable energy resources like solar and wind.
You have been honoured with the Mining Leader Award. What changes have you observed over the years in the mining sector?
I have been in the mining sector for a little over three decades. Like other industries, the mining industry has also moved from being labour-intensive towards large-scale automation and heavy mechanization by deploying  high capacity shovels and dumpers. The overall working environment in mines has vastly improved. The ever growing demand for minerals has led to the application of latest technologies in this sector.  The emergence of IT has also contributed to the growth of the mining sector. Environmental measures have received prominence. Now more attention is being paid to soil reclamation and afforestation of mined out areas.
Now the mine closure plan has been made mandatory with a sufficient provision of funds to carry out a closure.The NLC has proposals to carry out certain pilot projects for diversification to various thrust areas like Lignite to Liquid, synthetic Natural Gas from lignite through the gasification route and the removal of moisture from lignite for increasing the calorific value.
With the emerging technologies such as Underground Coal Gasification and Coal Bed methane. we can expect a shift in the working philosophy of the mining sector.

What is the secret of your success?
I attribute whatever I have achieved to hard work and a sincere and dedicated approach while acknowledging the team work and support of the dedicated executives and workmen of the company.

What does the CMD of the NLC do in his spare time to relax?
Generally, I don’t get much spare time.  Whenever I manage to get some free time, I think of solutions to vital issues. I also relax by reading books and watching TV.

Your message to our readers?
As an individual you can contribute quite a lot towards energy security and conservation of environment. Use electrical appliances only when absolutely necessary and for eco-friendly products. Even such a small step will go a long way in environmental protection. Remember, it is our duty to conserve national resources and protect the environment so that future generations do not suffer.


Our Previous Technocrats of the Month

JULY 2012  I JUNE 2012 I MAY 2012 I APRIL 2012 I MARCH 2012 I FEBRUARY 2012 I JANUARY 2012 I DECEMBER 2011 I NOVEMBER 2011 I OCTOBER 2011 I SEPTEMBER 2011 I AUGUST 2011 I JULY 2011 I


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