THAR COAL: IMPORTANT SOURCE OF ENERGY

MOHAMMED ARIFEEN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Oct 24 - 30, 20
11

Pakistan is basically an oil importing country and its economy suffers the most because of high oil prices. Most of its power generation is from furnace oil, high-speed diesel, and natural gas. Coal is almost absent.

Because of the fast growing economy and population, the demand of energy is rapidly increasing. Gas resources have been depleted to a larger extent.

Currently, the electricity generation capacity in Pakistan is over 20,000 MW. It is anticipated that at the present level of global coal production, the coal reserves are to last for over 130 years.

On the other hand, the proven oil and gas reserves are to last around 42 and 60 years respectively at current production level. Coal reserves are available in and round 70 countries. The largest proven recoverable reserves of lignite coal in the global are in Australia followed by USA and China. Total lignite coal reserves are estimated to be at 150 billion tons.

Share of coal on the energy sector is around 48 percent in the world. China's share of coal in the energy sector stands at 80 percent, USA 60 percent and India 40 percent.

Japan where 28 percent of energy is generated through coal is the world's largest steam coal importer. In Denmark also, about 46 percent electricity is generated from imported coal. Pakistan's share of coal in the energy sector is insignificant. For generating electricity, Pakistan depends primarily upon oil 43 percent followed by natural gas 38 percent and hydropower 10 percent.

Global energy demand is anticipated to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2020, and a large portion of this demand, about 50-60 per cent in Asia, will be met from coal.

In fact, clean coal technologies are now making coal more attractive and it is no longer considered to be a filthy fuel.

Thar Sindh coal reserves are approximately more than oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran. According to experts, reserves of coal worth US$25 trillion cannot only cater electricity requirement of Pakistan for the next 100 years but also save about US$4 billion in skyrocketing oil import bill.

Thar Coal is of fine quality for generation of clean energy. Its sulphur and ash content is less than 1.5 percent, which is cleaner than the coal being used in other countries. Pakistan constitutes an estimate of 2.5 percent of global population but consumes only 0.5 percent of world energy. Therefore, there is no fear that the utilization of Thar coal will pollute the environment or emit poisonous gases.

Pakistan's black Thar coal gold the precious natural resource of Sindh has largely remained untapped. Coal demand is expected to increase by 50 percent by the year 2020 and a large portion demand of 60 percent will be from Asia.

Thar coal when utilized fruitfully would meet the full requirement of energy for the next century.

According to experts, only two percent usage of Thar coal can produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity for 40 years.

To develop the Thar coal for energy purpose huge investment is required initially. A long time back the coal reserves could have been utilized productively but unfortunately the strong lobby for oil import was opposing tooth and nail both internally and somewhat externally the utilization of coal for generating electricity.

According to a top nuclear scientist, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, Pakistan has the ability to produce 50,000 megawatt electricity from Thar coal for the next 800 years. According to him, during the next three years first Thar coal power plant of 1000 megawatt would start functioning and this power would be sold to Sindh government at Rs3.5 per unit.

There are no ways out to overcome energy crisis in Pakistan but to use only indigenous coal reserves for generating electricity. There is shortage of gas in the country and the imported gas rates are quite high. Coal gasification and coal to liquid are some of the proven technologies available, which can be successfully employed to lessen dependence on expensive imported oil and gas.

The prominent geoscientists of Pakistan emphasize the need of adopting quick measures for early utilization of indigenous resource of Thar coal and according to them the establishment of coal power plants would help in overcoming the energy crises and boosting the economy of the country.

President Asif Ali Zardari stresses the need to expedite Thar Coal Gasification by removing the bottlenecks and holding regular review of the progress.

Thar Coal and Energy Board Secretary Muhammad Younus Dagha is of the opinion that an estimated US$7 billion to US$8 billion can be saved annually if the existing thermal power plants can be converted from furnace oil to coal. The project for the generation of 100 MW of electricity through underground coal gasification at Block V in Tharparkar had commenced last year. Due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Hitachi has delayed the supply of compressors by five months until September. The first test burn is expected in September 2011.

Dr. Mubarakmand assured that the success of the Thar coal project would encourage global investment by leading international companies dealing with development of underground coal. He said several foreign companies want to participate in the project and had shown their interest in investing the project along with providing their expertise.

Dr. Mubarakmand explained that the Uzbek experts had been invited to oversee and ensure success of the test burn. He said Uzbekistan was successfully operating a UCG project near Tashkent. The Thar project would start producing 100 MW electricity from December 2013, and its capacity would be gradually increased. "If the project is successful it will produce electricity at Rs2 per unit," he said.

At present, the people of Thar are living in absolute poverty. There is bonded labor and violation of human rights. The people of Thar are deprived of even access to safe drinking water. They need electricity, better education, transport facilities, health care, housing, and employment for their better standard of living. With the development of Thar coalfields, it is anticipated that not only Tharis but whole Sindh will prosper economically, politically and socially.