Energy Efficient Pot Furnace in
The Firozabad Glass Industry Cluster
Starting this issue, we bring to you a feature on TERI initiatives, in association with their publication Sameeksha
Location: Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh
Partners and collaborators: SDC, TERI, Sorane SA, British Glass, and TECO
Almost the entire small-scale glass industry in India is located within a single cluster in Firozabad, about 40 km from Agra. Each day, MSME units in Firozabad produce around 2000 tonnes of glass products, including 50 million bangles, and provide direct employment to an estimated 150,000 people. Besides having a near monopoly in the production of bangles, the Firozabad glass cluster also produces popular low-value glass products (bowls, tumblers, lamp shades, and so on). Glass for making bangles is melted mainly in open-pot furnaces. Till the mid-1990s, the 80-odd traditional pot furnaces in Firozabad were poor in design and coal-fired, resulting in very low levels of operating efficiency and high levels of CO2 and particulate emissions.
In 1994–95, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) partnered with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in a project to evolve and promote a more energy-efficient pot furnace design–one that would save fuel (coal) and thereby reduce CO2 emissions. However, the situation changed in December 1996, when the Supreme Court ordered 292 industries located in the Taj Trapezium zone–including the coal-fired pot furnace units in Firozabad–to switch over to natural gas (NG) to protect the Taj Mahal in Agra from environmental pollution. The Supreme Court also directed GAIL India Ltd to supply NG to industries in the region.
The coal-fired pot furnace units were plunged into a crisis following the Supreme Court’s verdict, because there were no readily available designs for NG-fired pot furnaces at that point of time. Closure of these units would have disrupted the entire bangle-making industry, and threatened the livelihoods of thousands of workers.
Approach and results
Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, the project set about developing an energy efficient NG-fired pot
furnace as a long-term solution for the pot furnace
By pooling the competencies of India and
international experts, and working in close consultation with entrepreneurs, furnace operators, masons and other
local stakeholders, TERI developed an energy efficient NG-fired pot furnace system–the ‘recuperative furnace’. In 2001, TERI successfully demonstrated the recuperative furnace in a unit chosen by the local industry
Key features of TERI-designed pot furnace
- Modular waste heat recovery system (recuperator)
- Crown-mounted burner for better heat distribution
- Improved structural design
- Use of better quality refractories in crown and floor
The TERI-designed furnace yields energy savings of up to 50%, as compared to the traditional coal-fired pot furnace; and over 30%, when compared to the ‘conventional’ NG-fired pot furnace (which had been adopted by most pot furnace units by 2001, in the absence of alternatives). The payback period ranges from 6–24 months, depending on furnace capacity and NG price.
In order to support and sustain replications of the
TERI-design furnace, the project has strengthened cluster-level technology delivery systems through ongoing awareness generation and capacity-building
As a result of these efforts, about 70 (till March 2011) of the 80-odd operating open pot furnace units in the cluster have switched over to the TERI-design furnace, thereby yielding an annual energy saving of over 60,000 tonnes of oil equivalent. TERI is presently working with BEE under the Bee-SME programme, and
considering energy conservation options for other types of furnaces.
The Firozabad experience provides a number of important lessons, which may be relevant for other initiatives aimed at promoting energy efficient technology in the Indian MSME
- Work with an ‘ice-breaker’. The project initially faced difficulties in establishing linkages with industry associations, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the cluster. The problem was solved by identifying and working with an ‘ice-breaker’–a well-known and widely respected
- Adopt a participatory approach. The success of the project depended vitally on involving the local stakeholders–workers, entrepreneurs, and others–in developing the new/improved technology.
Not only did this approach ensure that the technology was adapted to local conditions and
requirements; but it also gave the local people a sense of ownership over the technology, and the enthusiasm and confidence to use it beyond the
- First benchmark technology, then explore cost-
cutting. The energy efficient technology was developed in stages. The first priority was to maximize energy efficiency during demonstration, and benchmark various parameters of performance. Quality and reliability of equipment and materials were therefore critical factors in setting up the demonstration plant; while cost factors were relatively less important at this stage. After successful demonstration of the technology and benchmarking of its performance parameters, cost-cutting measures were explored step by step, and in a participatory manner, to make the technology more affordable.
- Technology must be flexible to adapt to cluster
realities. In certain aspects, tradition and custom wielded far more influence over an entrepreneur than even the proven benefits of the improved technology. It was therefore, important for the project to be able to modify the technology to suit these local traditions and customs.
- Build cluster capacities to spread and sustain the technology. Demonstration of the improved technology was not enough. The industry stakeholders had to be imparted the information and skills required to use and innovate on the technology beyond the project’s term. This meant training workers and entrepreneurs in best operating practices; strengthening the capabilities of fabricators, technicians, and masons to support the new technology; identifying and training local consultants to provide advisory and trouble-shooting services; and so on.
- Sustained project engagement with the cluster
is a must. SDC has a principle of long-term engagement in its funding programmes, which allows the formulation of flexible participatory schemes that can
operate for extended durations. Working with SDC enabled TERI to stay engaged with the Firozabad cluster for over a decade. This continuous involvement has paid off, with approximately 80% of the operating open-pot furnace units having adopted the TERI-designed
furnace so far.
— Contributed by TERI. Courtesy Sameeksha
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