Geothermal energy: ‘Around $8b can be saved annually using Thar coal’

Top politicians and businessmen discuss coal mines’ future.

Express August 21, 2011


An estimated $7-8 billion can be saved annually if the existing thermal power plants can be converted from furnace oil to coal, Thar Coal and Energy Board Secretary Muhammad Younus Dhaga said on Saturday. He added that there is a capacity of 2,976 MW in generation companies (GENCOs) and 2,150 MW in Independent Power Producers (IPP) which can be converted to coal with a cost of $1.5 billion to 1.8 billion.

At a meeting of the Thar Coal and Energy Board held at Chief Minister House, high-level industrialists and government officials met to discuss the future – and direction- of the Thar coal mines.

Chairman Sindh Board of Investment Zubair Motiwala, who was also present, briefed the board about the process of International Competitive Bidding and said that earlier the Block I of Thar Coalfields was allocated to the Chinese Global Mining Company (GMC).

The GMC intends to develop 5 million tons of coal per annum and initial power generation of 900 MW to be scaled up to 2,100 MW. They are also willing to invest $1.5 billion in key infrastructure projects. Motiwala also said that the chairman of GMC, Lizhi Zhao, is expected to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Sindh on August 26 at the Chief Minister House.

He added that the Australian company Australasian Continental Energy has also submitted a proposal of coal mining of six million tons per annum initially, which may be scaled up to 18 million tons per annum. They intend to initially generate 1,100 MW in the first years, which in 10 years could reach 2,000 MW.

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company Chief Executive Khalid Mansoor spoke about the progress of the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company. He said that substantial progress was made thanks to Chinese financing at the joint Energy Working Group’s meeting in Beijing on 1-3 August 2011.

Underground Coal Gasification Project Chairman Dr Samar Mubarakmand said that the project for the generation of 100 MW of electricity through the process of Underground Coal Gasification at Block V in Tharparkar had commenced last year.

To date $9.22 million have been released from the project. With it, the first gasifier, civil works have been completed. Due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Hitachi has delayed the supply of compressors by five months until September. The first of the gasifiers has been completed with over 36000 ft of drilling and 18000 ft of steel casing, Mubarakmand said. The first test burn is expected in September 2011. Total gas produced will be connected to the power turbines to generate electricity. Electricity generation of 100 MW will start by December 2013.

Irshad Arain of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) informed the board that they are working toward the dispersal of 1200 MW from Thar to up-country by the construction of 500 KV transmission lines from the power plant to the grid station in Matiari.

The project is being financed by the China Development Bank with an estimated cost of Rs20 billion. The Chief Minister Sindh assured the board that the government of Sindh is giving high priority to the provision of all infrastructures like water, roads, and a transmission network for the Thar coalfields. The development schemes of these infrastructure projects will be funded as per their requirement to ensure completion within the project timelines, the Chief Minister said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.