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Return to king coal for urea...
THE SHRIRAM Group with assets under management of Rs 60,000 crore has been predominantly engaged in the financial services sector. Its flagship enterprise, Shriram Transport Finance Company Ltd., is the largest non-banking finance company, engaged in financing vehicles. Shriram City Union Finance is engaged in consumer financing and Shriram Life Insurance and Shriram General Insurance, in collaboration with Sanlam Insurance of South Africa, have been operating profitably.

T Shivaraman, Managing Director, Shriram EPC, pointed to plans to focus on manufacturing activities also. Already the group is involved in the manufacture of composite metals, wind turbines, cements and a range of engineering products. Shivaraman outlined plans to set up a coal-based fertilizer plant at Visakhapatnam. The plant will be based on gasification of imported coal that would be converted into urea.

In the 1960s, the Fertiliser Corporation of India was keen to set up production facilities based on coal gasification. By the end of that decade, FCI firmed up plans to set up three such plants at Ramagundam (AP), Talcher (Orissa) and Korba (then MP). With FCI’s severe financial crunch, the Korba plant was dropped. FCI continued its effort to proceed with the plants at the other two sites. The foundation stone for the Ramagundam plant was laid on 02 October 1970. IE produced a special issue for that occasion. The inadequate funding of this project and indifferent commitment led to both the plants turning sick almost right from inception and were later abandoned. Just think of the difference their success would have made post the 1971 oil crisis!

Shivaraman pointed to a technology for coal gasification well-established. Based on imported coal with low ash content, coal gas can be produced at costs that would be competitive with the price of natural gas and much cheaper than liquid petroleum feedstock, said Shivaraman.

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