THAR COAL GASIFICATION
S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
Apr 25 - May 1, 2011
Sindh province is blessed with abundant coal reserves. Over 90 per cent of Pakistan's coal reserves are in Sindh. Exploitation of these coal resources for power generation to meet Pakistan's growing energy needs has become very important.
The largest reserve, 175 billion tonnes of lignite coal, is located in the Thar Desert of Sindh. Thar coal is yet to be developed for mining and power generation. Thar Coal presents an electricity generation potential of 100,000 MW, at estimated consumption of 536 million tones per year.
It has been estimated that all the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran put together are approximately 375 billion barrels, but a single Thar coal reserve of Sindh is about 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF), which is more than the oil reserves of Saudi Arab and Iran.
In addition to this, there are lignite coal reserves in Lakhra, Sonda, Indus East and other coalfields of Sindh. The Lakhra coal field is thoroughly investigated and developed. Several public and private mining companies are mining coal from Lakhra. It has been confirmed that Lakhra coal is suitable for power generation.
A 150MW FBC plant is currently operated by WAPDA on Lakhra coal. The Sonda and other coalfields of Sindh are yet to be investigated and developed. In Balochistan and Punjab, coal has been continuously mined since before independence. Good quality Sub-bituminous coal is available in various coalfields of Balochistan and Punjab, where coalfields are considered suitable for power generation.
Some small coal reserves are also located in NWFP and AJK, and are mined on a small scale.
Pakistan is not blessed with large reserves of oil and the opportunity for the hydroelectric potential is confined to the northern region of the country. Since the discovery of Thar coal in 1991, a very little development work or study has been initiated. Thar coal has low calorific value but is environmentally friendly with a low Sulfur content. The Thar coal deposits extend across the border and they are currently mined for power generation in Rajhistan in India. India has no reservations about the use of these coal deposits. Coal extraction from Thar will be a development requiring 3-4 years before coal is made available for use.
The ideal situation would be that the government of Pakistan uses the coal to reduce Pakistan's dependence on hydro projects. The only alternative method is to develop the Thar coal by international financing. This is possible only by inviting international power companies to invest in Pakistan and provide the required funding for the development of the Thar coalfield.
Pakistan's coal generally ranks from lignite to sub-bituminous. After witnessing a decline of 17 per cent in 2008-09, the total production of coal was increased by 10 per cent during July-March 2009-10 over the corresponding period last year. The share of coal imports in overall availability of coal increased from 62.2 per cent in July-March 2008-09 to 67.9 per cent July-March 2000-10. About 58.9 per cent of total coal was consumed by the brick kilns whereas 39.6 per cent was consumed by cement industry during the period of July-March 2009-10.
Pakistan is the second country in the world having huge coal reserves which should be used in a fair and transparent manner for the welfare and betterment of mankind and to overcome prevalent energy crisis.
Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand is going to play a vital role for generating electricity in Pakistan. He says it is the need of the hour to utilize huge Thar coal reserves and to meet the growing power needs in the country.
Dr. Samar says these reserves of coal worth US$25 trillion can cater for power requirements of the country for next 100 years and save almost four billion dollars of the staggering oil import bill. These reserves estimated at 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, are 30 times higher than Pakistan's proven gas reserves of 28 TCF.
ENERGY CONSUMPTION (2008-09)
SOURCE PER CENT Electricity 15.3 Coal 10.4 Gas 43.7 Oil 29.0 LPG 1.5
Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand says just 2 percent usage of Thar coal can produce 20,000 megawatt electricity adding, if the whole reserves are utilized, then it could easily be imagined how much energy could be generated.
Dr. Samar says the exploitation of energy potential of Thar coal reserves has been initiated and electricity would be enough for next 40 years. Moreover, the federal government has released funds for Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) of Thar. The scheme is aimed at producing coal gas for power generation and adding UCG is the most important clean coal technology of the future with worldwide application and a substitute for deep mining of coal for power generation. Dr. Samar has pointed out that the electricity production from these plants would be comparatively cheap and there are no environmental problems associated with the burning of UCG as any carbon dioxide gas produced can be easily captured.
No doubt, the coal reserves of Pakistan are considered suitable for power generation and comparable to other successfully exploited coals in the world. To facilitate the entrepreneurs interested in developing coal based projects in province of Sindh, the government of Sindh has completed the basic infra-structure of roads and water supply system. Pakistan today offers a secure, politically stable investment environment which is moving towards deregulation. Prospective investors are invited to come forward and invest in coal mine development and coal power projects in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan assures them of its fullest support in implementation of the projects.