COAL FOR THE RESCUE OF ENERGY CRISIS

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Jan 07 - 13, 2008

Coal has been our oldest source of energy and fuel for our domestic and industrial sectors including re-rolling mills and other heavy industry besides road and rail transport and power generation.

While tracing back the share of coal in overall energy mix during the last five decades in Pakistan, it transpires that the share of coal was 68 percent in the year 1948. It came down to 35 percent in 1958 and then its consumption fell down to 5 percent in the year, 2002.

After the exploration of huge coal reserves of about 175 billion tons in coalfields of Sindh province, a task force headed by the President of Pakistan was constituted (seemingly) to accelerate the pace of activities on fast track basis to develop Thar coal fields so that coal may be used as an alternate source of energy in the country. Coal would have been used for power generation much earlier in substitution of imported furnace oil as well as in cement and sugar industries. By the Grace of God cheaper fuel for thermal power generation is available in the form of abundant resources of coal especially in Sindh. Coal reserves are also available in Balochistan, Punjab and NWFP. However, the irresponsible attitude of those in power in utilizing these resources does not seem to be patriotic by any stretch of imagination. Knowledgeable and well informed people are of the considered opinion that the Petroleum and Gas Companies, which are minting money and making the strongest lobby to prevail upon the policy makers, are not allowing coal to play its vital role in producing substantial energy and rescuing the country from the prevailing energy crisis. Electricity breakdowns, power shut downs, gas low pressures and acute shortage of gas supply to industrial and domestic sectors have become a matter of routine especially in Karachi, which is popularly known as Mini Pakistan just because of the lopsided policies of those in power. . This is an eye opener for the government.

In view of the modern technologies, coal no more remains a threat for environmental safety. Turning coal into smokeless fuel and coal gasification are the tried and tested technologies in the advanced world, which can be hired and availed for use in Pakistan.

In the prevailing situation, the importance and expediency for using our coal reserves must be realized without further loss of time because Hydel Power (which is considered the cheapest one) is direly on the decline and thermal power generation mostly depends on imported fuel and gas resources are rapidly depleting.

Pakistan has 185 billion tons of coal reserves against the world's total reserves of 909 billion tons. Thus Pakistan ranks as the 7th in the world's largest coal possessing countries. Thar, district Tharparker (Sindh) possesses 85 percent of the total reserves found in the country. Lakhra is the second biggest coalfield.

According to the estimates of Geological Survey of Pakistan, the total coal reserves of the country are 185 billion tons of which 180 billions tons are in Sindh (Thar: 175.5 billion tons, Lakhra: 1.3 billion tons, Sondha Thar: 3.7 billion tons and Meting Jhimpur O.16 billion tons), 0.217 billion tons in Balochistan: O.235 billion tons in Punjab and O.O9 billion tons in NWFP.

The heating value of coal found in Pakistan is shown below:

PROVINCE

HEATING VALUE

Sindh (Thar)

5774 BTU / Lb

(Larkana)

5774 BTU / Lb

Balochistan

9600 to 15000 BTU/LB

Punjab

9400 to 14000 BTU/Lb-

NWFP

11,000 to 14000 BTU/Lb

Coal can be used in cement and sugar industries, rail and road transport, boilers and for power generation.

Worldwide share of coal in electric power generation:

COUNTRY

SHARE OF COAL (%)

U.S.A

52

U.K

58

Australia

77

Germany

52.2

China

78

India

77

South Africa

88

Poland

96

Czech Repub

72

Greece

67

Denmark

47

Netherlands

28

World average

39 percent

Source: World Coal Institute, London Dec. 2002

Pakistan is using coal much below the world's average, obviously to patronize and benefit Petroleum and Gas Companies, which are making bonanza at the cost of industry, power sector and poor masses. Is it not strange and regrettable that the

share of coal in electric power generation in Pakistan is less than 1 percent. Interestingly (rather mockingly) Care-taker Minister for Water and Power, Tariq Hameed while stating that 2700 mw additional power will be generated in coming three years, also disclosed that a comprehensive strategy is being chalked out for utilization of coal in power generation to balance the supply and demand of electricity. Regarding utilization of coal, such a lollypop is being given to the nation for the last about six generations but what is the end-result is yet to be seen on the ground. It has rightly been analyzed that the coal sector suffered a severe set-back in competition with the subsidized energy resources, which discouraged the utilization of coal for industrial purposes and power generation. Resultantly, a good number of chemical and cement plants, which were previously run on coal, were converted to natural gas in late 60's and afterwards to imported furnace oil. The present socio-economic scenario of energy requirements warrants maximizing energy reliance on coal and focusing on its adequate and judicious utilization.

It may interesting to point that Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited in collaboration and under the directions of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources was working on preparing feasibility for installing and commissioning two gas plants at Bhakkar (Punjab) by utilizing coal from Makarwal, applying coal gasification technology. Some officials of the Ministry and the Company have been making foreign tours especially to West Germany where samples of coal from Makarwal were sent for Lab tests and assessment of feasibility. The project remained in activity for several years and now, reportedly, it has been dropped altogether without assigning and expressing any reason after spending so much precious time and money, naturally on directions from Islamabad.

As regards to underground coal gasification at the Thar coalfield, the Government of Sindh had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Middle East Link Pvt. Ltd. Progress and furtherance on this venture needs to be lime-lighted for the information of the people of this country. Coal could still be a much less expensive alternate fuel, especially in the developing countries like Pakistan as is evident from the fact that the U.S., the second leading consumer mainly depends on coal as an energy resource and for power generation.

Similarly, China the fast growing economy in the world has plans to build 500 power plants by the year, 2010, many of which would be coal-fired. Indonesia, which is the third largest coal exporter, foresees a ten-time increase in coal consumption for power generation by 2009. Power generation by coal in South Asia is in great momentum. In India, in addition to its present coal fired generation capacity of 63 Gwe, still projects for 2.7 Gwe are under construction and for 5.1 Gwe are planned. Coal-fired power generation capacity in India, both planned and existing is based on low calorific value coals. Sri Lanka has planned to build its first coal-fired power plant with particulate, SO2 and No emissions control systems.

As regards Pakistan, following table would show the consumption of coal, supply of coal, imported and indigenous year-wise from 1999-00 to 2003-04:-

YEAR

CONSUMPTION OF  COAL (000 TON)

SUPPLY OF COAL (000 TON)
.

H.HOLD 

POWER

B.KILNS

CEMENT

TOTAL

IMPORT

PRODUCTION TOTAL

1999-00

1.0

348

2819

.

168

657

3113

3770

2000-01

1.0

206

2838

50

3095

650

3095

3745

2001-02

1.1

249

2577

664

3492

1081

3328

4409

2002-03

1.1

204

2607

357

3769

1578

3312

4890

2003-04

1.0

185

2406

2508

5100

2789

3145

5934

Source: HDIP

-From the above it would be clear that imported coal was being used even in Brick Kilns and Cement industry. There are reports that after 2003-04 and even now coal is being imported at a high cost when our coal reserves are of suitable standards and grades to be used in these sectors. According to an estimate, 2.5 million tons of coal per annum would be needed as a fuel for the entire cement industry, 1 to 1.5 million tons for sugar industry consisting of 76 sugar mills and a sizable quantity of coal can be used in the country's more than 4000 boilers in place of furnace oil and natural gas.

COAL FOR ELECTRICITY GENERATION:

Shenhua Group Corporation Limited of China has been exploring the possibility of their assistance in development of Thar coal and establishment of 6000 mw miner mouth coal field power generation at Lakhra but after a good deal of work on feasibility study and surveys left midway failing to reach an agreement on tariff with WAPDA.

A German company had estimated in 2003 that coalfields of Thar Block-I alone were enough to provide 1000 mw power plant for over half a century. The then Sindh Minister for Mines and Minerals himself paid a visit to Germany to witness the technological viability of that German company. But thereafter there was a complete lull. That's the way our governments work. On the other hand the share of imported coal in the total supply remains 47 percent. This is at all not a healthy situation prima facie the present scenario of energy crisis, power shut-downs and gas low pressures throughout the country when abundant coal reserves, modern technologies to make coal environmentally a safe fuel and to replace the expensive imported oil and supplement the limited resources of gas, are indigenously available.

It is but disappointing that Pakistan has not yet learned to utilize its coal for power generation for industrial, commercial and domestic sectors while one dozen developed and developing countries are depending upon it for their economies.

The latest news is that German Consultants Messrs Rheinbrayn Engineering has completed a mining feasibility on a specific block in Thar coalfield. The same block has been assigned to an American firm for commissioning of an integrated coal mining and commissioning of a 1000 mw power plant.

The government has also decided to establish a coal mining and power generation company on the pattern of WAPDA for harnessing Thar coal resources.

The government of Sindh has leased a coal block to Messrs Fateh of Hyderabad to commission a coal based power plant of 250 mw.

The government has also allowed a Chinese company, Messrs China National Chemical Engineering Group Corporation (CNEC) to conduct a feasibility study on a coal block in Sonda Jherri coal fields in the province of Sindh for an integrated mining project of one million tons and to commission a 250 mw coal based power plant.

To cut short the story, the need of the hour is that no lobby, bureaucrats or vested interests should be allowed to play foul with the investors for grafting, selfish motives, bias or hegemony. Explorations and utilization of our coal must go ahead in the right earnest to combat the energy crisis in the country in the broader national interest on war footing and at the same time a comprehensive enquiry needs to be taken to ascertain as to why such inordinate delay has occurred in utilizing these gigantic and valuable resources and those responsible for this criminal delay must be taken to task. Those who are responsible deserve no leniency or exoneration. They should be treated at par with those, who are disloyal to the country and the nation.