Thar region has a potential of over 17 billion tons of coal


Oct 13 - 19, 2003



Cheaper source of energy has become the most sought after object not only amidst the developing economies but to the developed world as well as it plays a key role for sustained economic growth in today's world. Since power generation through thermal based system in which costly fuel oil is required, a considerable amount of power generation is being shifted from oil to cheaper fuels like gas, coal, and wind powered energy. Countries like the US, Germany, France, China etc have already gone to coal and wind powered electricity generation.

Pakistan is not an exception and efforts are being made for finding solution of costly power generation through finding alternative energy resources. In this respect, "Alternative Energy Resource Board" is also being constituted. Luckily, besides having huge natural gas reserves, Pakistan also have coal reserves at a massive scale in Thar region. Currently, in collaboration with friendly country China efforts are being made to utilize the available coal for power generation in Pakistan.

According to an estimate the Thar region has a potential of over 17 billion tons of coal which can tremendously facilitate Pakistan's economic goals in future. It is said that recent exploration of 9 billion tons of coal reserves in the Thar region of Sindh province could change the future economic landscape of Pakistan.

By the year 2010, Pakistan may face a shortfall of 5000 MW of electricity. The Thar coal can generate about 3000MW and help meet the shortfall if the Lakhra coal is also utilized for power generation. Might be able to generate an additional 300MW of electricity.

Coal might turn out to be the biggest source of future power generation in Pakistan and would also be instrumental in overcoming the country's difficulty in meeting the WTO conditionally and competing in the world market by using cheaper power.

At present the country was using small percentage of coal for generating electricity, whereas in Poland 96 per cent of power was generated from coal fired system. Australia got 86 per cent of energy from coal, USA 56 per cent, the UK 50 per cent while in India 60 per cent of energy came from coal.

A task force has been constituted under the personal supervision of the Prime Minister while Chinese scientists are scouring the area to come up with the best technique of economic utilization of coal and power generation.

Thar coal area extended to over 9000 square kilometers and reserves of more than 17.5 billion tons coal had been estimated. However, the coal was not of the best variety and contained too most moisture with a low heating value. This factor limits the establishment of power generation plants in the coal mining area. Power will be transmitted by means of interconnections and grid system. Plants are also on the anvil to get power through gasification of Thar coal and of its conversion to methane gas, which will condition its transportation through huge pipelines.




Recently, the World Bank estimating Pakistan's economic potentials has said that original recoverable gas reserves in Pakistan are much more than official estimates of 42 trillion cubic feet (TCF) which need to be explored and developed through hi-tech surveys and negotiations with the local population. The Bank has asked the government to negotiate a new revenue sharing ageement with tribal leaders, the people at large in Balochistan besides the oil companies to conduct petroleum exploration and production activities without law and order problems.

To achieve the target, a concerted effort should be made to exploring strategic and more subtle traps which could add substantial oil and gas reserves because most of the structural traps have already been drilled. Attractive incentives should be introduced to encourage the use of the advances in seismic acquisition and processing techniques by the private sector.

The bank also called for carrying out promotional surveys such as aero-magnetic, gravity and seismic, preferably through joint ventures with the private sector to attract industry interest into areas whose petroleum potential remains to be established.

Pakistan's original recoverable gas reserves have increased from 31.2 tcf in 1992 to 41.9 tcf in 2002.

At present 160,000 sq. km of which 36,000 sq. in the offshore, are under contract, there is still need to accelerate exploration investments, given in particular the rising demand for gas.

The World Bank said analysis of the existing contract revealed that the average government intake in Pakistan amounted to 45-50 per cent which was on the lower side by international standards, but reasonable considering prospective, perceived political risk and desireablity to attract investments.

The government has been advised to ensure consistency and stability in gas producer pricing policies, so that new discoveries are brought to the market with minimal delays and facilitate access to foreign exchange for domestic companies having resources, capability and track record to explore and develop gas resources.