Experts suggest ways of exploiting Thar coal deposits

Published: November 9, 2013

184b tons, are the estimated reserves of coal in Sindh. PHOTO: FILE

HYDERABAD: As the vast coal reserves of Thar still appear far from doing wonders, experts at a conference suggested ways of harnessing the resource efficiently while keeping it environment-friendly.

A three-day mega event, during which about 55 papers were being read by international and domestic experts, was organised by Mehran University of Engineering and Technology.

Titled “1st International Coal Conference”, the event started on Thursday at the university’s main campus in Jamshoro. The experts discussed a host of issues like coal mining, coal geology, characterisation and upgrading, emission and control, coal utilisation and clean technology.

An estimated 175 billion tons of coal reserves, spread over an area of 9,100 square kilometres in Thar, await exploitation for electricity and gas production.

“A lack of strategic policy guidelines has resulted in a series of very costly ad hoc decisions in the past 20 years,” said Dr Zahoor A Abbasi, who works with Delta Engineering, California.

He said Thar coal held the key to addressing energy crisis in Pakistan as it cost around $2 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) compared to furnace oil cost of over $20 per mmbtu.

However, Abbasi argued that the Sindh government, despite its good intentions, lacked professional capacity to understand the fundamentals associated with coal projects. “After spending billions of rupees, we are no closer to producing energy from Thar coal today than we were 20 years ago,” he said.

Globally, coal-powered electricity plants were fast replacing other fuels used for the process, said Shah Zulfiqar Hyder of Narayanganj Electric Cooperative, Bangladesh.

“Some 483 power companies have proposed new coal-fired plants in 59 countries, mainly in China and India, besides 20,000 megawatts of proposed power generation from coal in the US,” he said.

Even in Bangladesh, coal was set to replace other fuels as the primary source of electricity generation, he added.

Pakistan has also huge coal deposits with Sindh alone holding estimated reserves of over 184 billion tons in Thar, Badin, Lakhra and Sonda coalfields. The biggest coalfield in Thar has been divided into 12 blocks and development work by foreign and domestic companies is under way in four blocks.

Three companies – Sino Sindh Resources, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and Oracle Coalfields – are involved in open cast mining. A gasification project is being run on a pilot basis under the supervision of Dr Samar Mubarakmand. However, none of them will be able to produce electricity or offer coal for commercial sale before 2015-16.

Speaking at the conference, Dr Yoichi Kodera of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Sciences and Technology, Japan, said coal was a clean way to generate hydrocarbons and hydrogen. He explained three methods for coal gasification including fixed-bed, fluidised-bed and entrained-bed, of which Thar coal was being experimented through the fluidised system due to low-grade lignite content containing high sulphur, moisture and ash.

Kodera said a gasification plant in Japan was producing 250 megawatts with higher generation efficiency and lower environmental impact.

“The coal gasification system is successfully competing with pulverised coal-fired power generation with super critical steam production, cost and environmental impacts,” he said and expressed the hope that the underground coal gasification project in Thar would also become a success story if proper technological methods were applied.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Anon
    Nov 9, 2013 - 9:25AM

    Pakistan acting as if coal is the only option for electricity. Forget coal and use the nuclear energy for peaceful purpose like electricity production, instead of piling up bombs and acting aggressively against peaceful neighbors.

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  • unbelievable
    Nov 9, 2013 - 9:41AM

    With today’s technology Thar Coal is not going to be a solution to Pakistan’s economic or energy crisis. The vast majority of the reserves sit below water making it uneconomic to mine – that’s why the subject of coal gasification usually comes up. The portion of Thar Coal that is economic to mine is a small fraction of the reserves touted in most articles – and that coal has such low quality that the cost/energy to transport the coal almost exceeds it value. That means that any coal produced has to be used in a mine mouth power generation facility – requiring investment in transmission lines to wherever the power is going to be used.
    .
    Most of the articles on Thar Coal are planted by Engro in an attempt to get the govt to finance Thar Coal. Of course Engro owns a Thar Coal lease (through it’s subsidiary), doesn’t have any coal mining experience and despite claims of Thar Coal being economically viable it won’t invest it’s own money and can’t find any lender/investor.

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  • Ovais
    Nov 9, 2013 - 10:42AM

    All talk

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  • Bashir
    Nov 9, 2013 - 5:01PM

    @Anon:
    Peaceful neighbors ?? You mean India ? ?

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  • Saleem
    Nov 9, 2013 - 5:07PM

    A three-day mega event, during which about 55 papers were being read by international and domestic experts

    Why is it so hard to find the truth, is this coal feasible or not? Pakistan can’t come out of its doldrum unless people start thinking about the country rather than their personal agendas.

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  • ishrat salim
    Nov 9, 2013 - 5:09PM

    there is nothing in this world which is called impossible….it need expertise, political will, unity and patience, which has been lacking all these 66 years…..before 1999, nobody thought we could go nuclear….but we did it no ! we did it because it was a matter of our nation`s life and death, similarly, if we take energy as a matter of life and death, we will find ways to overcome this too…insha Allah. I say…It is the oil mafia who are planting negative articles to discourage us and our govt to refrain from doing all to harness energy from coal….please be patriotic and standby with optimism and support all effort in this respect to save our country to come out from darkness…..

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