Infrastructure and Energy Current Affairs Compilation – Nov. 2021 to March 2022 | UPSC IAS Prelims 2022 Material

Dear Friends,

This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered all of the Infrastructure and Energy Current Affairs from Nov. 2021 to  March 2022. In the 2nd part, we will cover the rest of the current affairs of the period July 2021 to 31st April 2022.


To Read Other Current Affairs Compilations for UPSC Prelims 2022– Click here

Virtual Smart Grid Knowledge Center (Virtual SGKC)

News: The Union Minister for Power has launched the Virtual Smart Grid Knowledge Center (Virtual SGKC) and Innovation Park.

About Virtual Smart Grid Knowledge Center (Virtual SGKC)

Established by: PowerGrid with support from the Ministry of Power and National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) and technical assistance from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Purpose: To become a global leader in fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and research in smart grid technologies and create capacities in the power distribution sector.

Location: The centre is located within the POWERGRID.

About National Smart Grid Mission

Launched by: Ministry of Power in 2015

Objective: 1.) To address key issues of Smart Grid Initiatives on a large scale in the country. 2.) To make the Indian Power infrastructure cost-effective, responsive and reliable.

About Smart Grid

Smart Grid is an Electrical Grid with Automation, Communication and IT systems. It can monitor power flows from points of generation to points of consumption and control the power flow or curtail the load to match generation in real-time or near real-time.

Some smart grids include various energy measures such as smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy-efficient resources.

These measures can contribute to a reduction of T&D losses, Peak-load management, improved quality of Service, increased reliability, better asset management, renewable integration, and better accessibility to electricity and also lead to self-healing grids.


Away From Reactor (AFR) Facility

 News: Kudankulam Village Panchayat has passed a resolution against the construction of the ‘Away From Reactor (AFR) facility at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site for storing nuclear waste.

About the Away From Reactor (AFR) Facility

The storage of spent fuel in a nuclear power plant is two-fold:

One facility is located within the reactor building/service building, generally known as the Spent Fuel Storage Pool.

Another is located away from the reactor, called the Away From Reactor (AFR) Spent Fuel Storage Facility, but within the plant’s premises.

The spent fuel storage pool inside the reactor building has a limited capacity and is used for immediate storage of the spent fuel removed from the reactor during refuelling.

The fuel remains in the pool initially for a few years for it to be cooled sufficiently before it is shifted to the AFR facility. The AFR Facility is functionally similar to the ‘Spent Fuel Pool’ inside the reactor building, except in terms of capacity.


Battery swapping

News: In Budget 2022-23, the Finance Minister has announced that the government would introduce a battery swapping policy and interoperability standards.

About battery swapping: Battery swapping or battery-as-a-service allows EV owners to replace the discharged batteries with charged ones at the swap stations. When the battery is discharged, the owner can change it with a fully charged one.

The battery swapping policy is likely to focus on battery swap services for three-wheeled auto rickshaws and two-wheelers such as electric scooters and motorcycles.

Significance of Battery Swapping: 1) Address the problem of setting up charging stations and also reduce range anxiety of drivers, 2) Help EV owners save the cost of purchasing a battery, 3) Less time consuming and takes only a few minutes compared to charging at a battery station which could take hours, 4) Requires minimum infrastructure.

Issues linked to Battery Swapping: 1) High Cost of Battery (Batteries account for close to 60% of the cost for an e-two-wheeler), 2) Lack of standardization among batteries, 3) Unsuitable battery pack design and 4) Higher GST on separate batteries (18% versus 5% for EVs).


Vande Bharat Trains

News: In Budget 2022, the Finance Minister has announced that 400 Vande Bharat trains will be manufactured in the next three years.

About Vande Bharat Trains: Vande Bharat is an indigenous semi-high speed train, with maximum speed of 160 kmph. Currently, two Vande Bharat trains are in operation, with routes New Delhi-Varanasi and New Delhi-Katra.

They are self-propelled trains that do not require an engine. This feature is called a distributed traction power system. It means Vande Bharat rake has eight motorised coaches, compared to a 16-coach Shatabdi type train with one source of power at one end of the train in the form of a train locomotive.

It allows the train higher acceleration and deceleration as compared to locomotive-based trains that take more time to attain top speed or gradually come to a halt.

It also has an intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency.

New features in 400 Vande Bharat Trains: according to the budget, the 400 new trains are expected to be more efficient, with superior aerodynamic profile.

These trainsets will be built with aluminum instead of steel. An aluminum body will make each train set around 40-80 tonnes lighter than a current Vande Bharat. This will mean lower consumption of energy as well as better speed potential.


One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency

News: As a part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, POWERGRID is commemorating the landmark achievement of the completion of One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency or National Grid.

About One Nation-One Grid-One Frequency or national grid

Grid management on a regional basis started in the 1960’s. State grids were interconnected to form a regional grid and India was demarcated into 5 regions namely Northern, Eastern, Western, North Eastern and Southern regions.

Then the integration of these regional grids and thereby establishment of a National Grid was conceptualized in the early 1990s.

In 1991 North Eastern and Eastern grids were connected. In 2003, the Western region grid was connected with it.

In 2006, North and East grids were interconnected and then in 2013, the Southern Region was connected to the Central Grid. This helped in achieving ‘One Nation, One Grid, One Frequency’.

Maintaining ‘One frequency’ on national grid is important as multiple frequencies cannot operate alongside each other without damaging equipment. Thus, grid frequency is being maintained between 49.90-50.05 Hz (hertz) bands.


Coal Gasification

News: In the Union Budget 2022-23, the Union Finance Minister has announced four coal gasification-pilot projects will be set up.

About Coal Gasification: Coal gasification is a process in which coal is partially oxidized with air, oxygen, steam or carbon dioxide to form a fuel gas. This gas is then used instead of piped natural gas, methane and others for deriving energy.

China has the biggest number of coal gasification projects in the world. 5% of China’s total coal consumption is from its gasifier. The US also has some coal gasification plants running.

Significance of coal gasification

According to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, urea is currently produced using pooled natural gas, which comprises of both domestic natural gas and imported LNG. Hence, the usage of locally available coal for making fertilisers would help reduce the import of LNG.

According to the International Energy Agency report, the coal gasification process holds good potential in the future with coal being the most abundantly available fossil fuel across the world and that even low-grade coal can be used in the process.

Concerns associated with Coal Gasification

  1. Coal gasification actually produces more carbon dioxide than a conventional coal-powered thermal power plant. According to CSE estimates, one unit of electricity generated by burning gasified coal generates 2.5 times more carbon dioxide compared to burning the coal directly.
  2. Coal gasification plants are costlier than conventional power plants.
  3. Since coal is the main feed for gasification, it in no way helps India’s decarbonisation goals.
  4. Coal gasification is one of the more water-intensive forms of energy production.
  5. There are concerns about water contamination, land subsidence and disposing of waste water safely

VIHANGAM

News: Coal India Limited had recently inaugurated the ‘VIHANGAM’ system at Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL).

About VIHANGAM

VIHANGAM is an Internet-based system integrated with a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS).

The system consists of a Ground Control Station (GCS), an RPAS, internet lease line of 40 Mbps and VIHANGAM portal.

The system enables real-time transmission of aerial video of mining activities from mines to internet platforms, which can be accessed through VIHANGAM portal by authorized personnel only having ID and password.

About Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)

RPAS is considered as one of the subset of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). It consists of a remotely piloted aircraft, its associated remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components as specified in the type design.

About Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL)

A major coal producing company which is also one of the eight subsidiaries of Coal India Limited. MCL was the first coal company to introduce environment-friendly Surface Mining technology in 1999.


Char Dham Programme

News: The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to widen the three Himalayan Highways which form part of the Char Dham Pariyojna Project.

About Char Dham Programme:

  • The Char Dham programme is an initiative to improve connectivity to the Char Dham pilgrimage centres in the Himalayas namely Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
  • These four ancient pilgrimages sites in Uttarakhand are known as Chota Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of modern-day Char Dham sites namely Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram.
  • The works under Char Dham Pariyojna are being implemented on Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode of contract.
  • These projects are being implemented by three executing agencies of (a)Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, (b)Uttarakhand State PWD, (c)Border Road Organization(BRO) and (d)National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited(NHIDCL).

Features of the programme

  • The project proposes the widening of single lane roads into double lanes by up to 10 metres, developing highways in Uttarakhand and thereby improving access to the Char Dham.
  • The projects also includes mitigation measures/ stabilisation of chronic landslide & sinking spots/zones as a standalone project or part of road widening projects to avoid landslide and safety of road users.

Sela Tunnel Project

News: Border Roads Organization (BRO) has conducted the final blast for the 980-meter-long Sela Tunnel (Tunnel 1). This marks the culmination of the excavation works on the complete Sela Tunnel Project.

About Sela Tunnel Project

Located in: West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh.

The tunnel is a part of the Balipara-Chariduar-Tawang (BCT) road, one of the key strategic projects near the Chinese border.

The project comprises two tunnels: a) Tunnel 1 which is a 980 m long single tube tunnel and b) Tunnel 2, which is a 1555 m long twin-tube tunnel. Tunnel 2 has one bi-lane tube for traffic and one escape tube for emergencies.

The project also includes the construction of an approach road of seven kilometers to Tunnel 1, which takes off from BCT Road and a link road of 1.3 kilometers, which connects Tunnel 1 to Tunnel 2.

Significance of the tunnel

Once completed, the tunnel will be the longest twin-lane tunnel above 13,000 feet in the world and will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang. Moreover, the project will also allow faster deployment of weapons and soldiers to forward areas in the Tawang sector.


Automatic Generation Control (AGC)

News: The Union Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy has launched the Automatic Generation Control (AGC).

About Automatic Generation Control (AGC)

Renewable energy (RE) generation in India has been on a steady rise. However, the fluctuating nature of energy from renewables requires power balancing in real-time to keep supply and demand in sync. Hence, the AGC has been launched.

Operated by: AGC is being operated by Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO) through the National Load Dispatch Centre (NLDC).

Function: Through AGC, NLDC can send signals to more than 50 power plants in the country every 4 seconds to maintain the frequency and reliability of the Indian Power System. This will ensure more efficient and automatic frequency control for handling variable and intermittent renewable generation.

Significance: This will help to achieve the government’s ambitious target of 500 GW non-fossil fuel-based generation capacity by 2030.


Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE)

News: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released a draft policy framework for Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE).

About Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE): DRE is the term used when electricity is generated from renewable energy sources near the point of use instead of centralized generation sources from power plants.

Problems faced by DREs in India: Problems include Lack of proper financing channels, consumer awareness, consumer affordability and quality products/standards.

About the policy framework on Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE)

The main objectives outlined in the framework are:

  1. Increasing the adoption of DRE-based livelihood solutions by enabling easy finance for the end-user
  2. Developing effective DRE livelihood applications through innovation as well as research and development
  3. Forming a committee to monitor the progress of DRE projects, which will meet at least once every six months.
  4. Make available a digital catalogue of DRE-powered solutions to be used by various stakeholders to raise awareness.

Shale Oil 

News: Cairn Oil & Gas has announced that it is partnering with US-based Halliburton to start shale exploration in the Lower Barmer Hill formation, Western Rajasthan.

About Shale Oil 

Shale oil is an unconventional oil produced from oil shale rock fragments.

Difference between Shale Oil and conventional crude oil: The key difference between shale oil (also known as Tight Oil) and conventional crude is that the shale oil is conventional crude deposits. Its extraction requires the creation of fractures in oil and gas rich shale to release hydrocarbons through a process called hydraulic fracking.

Challenges in Shale Oil Exploration: Environmental concerns around massive water requirements for fracking and potential for groundwater contamination.

Largest Producers of Shale Oil: Russia and the US are among the largest shale oil producers in the world, with a surge in shale oil production in the US having played a key role in turning the country from an importer of crude to a net exporter in 2019.

Shale Oil Exploration in India: Currently, there is no large-scale commercial production of shale oil and gas in India.

Note: Earlier, State-owned ONGC had found prospects of shale oil at the Cambay basin in Gujarat and the Krishna Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh. However, the company concluded that the quantity of oil flow observed in these basins did not indicate “commerciality” and that the general characteristics of Indian shales are quite different from North American ones.


Strategic Petroleum Reserves 

News: India released 5 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves in coordination with countries like the US, Japan, China, Britain and the Republic of Korea with the aim of bringing down oil prices. This is the first time ever that India is releasing oil from its strategic petroleum reserves.

About Strategic Petroleum Reserves 

Strategic petroleum reserves are huge stockpiles of crude oil to deal with any crude oil-related crisis, like the risk of supply disruption from natural disasters, war or other calamities.

The petroleum reserves are strategic in nature and the crude oil stored in these reserves will be used during an oil shortage event, as and when declared so by the Government of India.

The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

Phase-I: Under this, Government of India, through its Special Purpose Vehicle, Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL), has established petroleum storage facilities with total capacity of 5.33 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) at 3 locations, namely (i) Vishakhapatnam (ii) Mangaluru and (iii) Padur.

Phase II: Under this, the Government has approved two additional commercial-cum-strategic facilities at Chandikhol (Odisha) and Padur (TN) on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.


Bharat Gaurav Trains 

News: Indian Railways has announced the introduction of theme-based, tourist circuit trains named ‘Bharat Gaurav’ Trains.

Key features Bharat Gaurav Trains

Aim:  To showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and magnificent historical places to the people of India and the world.

Indian Railways has allocated 190 trains for this initiative.

Eligibility: These trains could be taken on a lease by any private player, state government or Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and run them on theme-based circuits.

Themes:  The service provider can decide themes like Guru Kripa trains for covering Sikh culture’s important places, Ramayana trains for destinations connected with Lord Shri Ram among others.

Registration Fee:  For interested players, the process has been made easy with one-step, transparent online registration. The registration fee will be Rs 1 lakh.

The operator has the freedom to decide the route, the halts, the services provided, and most importantly, the tariff.

Tenure of Lease:  The tenure of right to use is a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years.


Zoji La Tunnel 

News: Zojila tunnel will be opened for defence forces and emergency services by 2024, two years ahead of the 2026 deadline. This will ensure that the mobilization of the Army and machines to the strategic cold desert is no longer affected by closure of five or six months due to snowfall.

About the Zoji La Tunnel 

Zoji La Tunnel is a single-tube road tunnel under Zoji La pass in the Himalayas

The tunnel will connect Baltal in Kashmir with Minamarg in Ladakh. This will reduce travel time by two-and-a-half hours.

Once completed, Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel.

Strategic significance of the Zoji La Tunnel 

The need for Zoji La tunnel was first felt during the 1999 Kargil war, and the recent incursions by China made it an urgent necessity. The tunnel will provide logistics flexibility and operational mobility to the Army.

About the Zoji La Pass 

Zoji La is a high mountain pass located in the Kargil district of Ladakh. Zoji la is also known as the “Mountain Pass of Blizzards”.

The pass links Leh and Srinagar and provides an important link between the Union Territories of Ladakh and Kashmir.

Zojila pass remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall, cutting off the Ladakh region from Kashmir.

 

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