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Options for coal-based power projects By Engr Abdul Waheed Bhutto
11-23-2009, 03:55 AM
Post: #1
Options for coal-based power projects By Engr Abdul Waheed Bhutto
Despite renewed commitments by successive governments, a power plant based on local coal has not materialised and still seems to be a distant possibility.

The Thar Coal and Energy Board (TCEB) has approved four coal reserve projects to generate up to 2,450 megawatt (MW) power including 1,000 MW power plant to be set up under the joint venture of the Sindh government with the Engro.

Accordingly to Asad Umar, CEO, Engro Chemicals Limited, there are a lot of technical challenges not fully met as yet. He believes that at the end of the day the answer will be positive but there is no ground work done yet to start any project. Extensive technical investigation needs to be done - relating to environmental issues, infrastructural issues and other technical and operational challenges. He is also of the view that Pakistan is unlikely to generate any power from Thar coal before 2016. .

Thar’s coal is believed to be high in moisture content, which makes it unsuitable for transport or easy use in power generation. Then there is the issue of acquiring adequate water to run a power plant. And finally, any new power plant in Thar will have to be connected to the national grid at great cost and effort.

Earlier, the Shenhua Group Corp of China withdrew from the $1.5 billion Thar coal project because it considered the power tariff rate inadequate for power generation.

Cougar Energy Limited has also announced plans to develop a 400 megawatt power station to be fuelled by underground coal gasification (UCG), following receipt of a letter of offer from government of Sindh. Meanwhile, Planning Commission (PC) intends to set up 50MW underground gasification plant using “indigenous technology” with the help of nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand. .

Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is the process of coal conversion into combustible products (syngas) which can be used either as fuel or as a chemical feedstock. UCG eliminates the need for mining and may be used in deep or steeply dipping, unminable coal seams. It also eliminates the need for specialised coal processing equipment and gasification reactors.

Despite considerable research and testing, no commercially viable project based upon UCG has yet been demonstrated anywhere. Research has been conducted principally in western Europe, US, China, the former Soviet Union and Australia.

Coal based electricity generation technologies are well-established and technical capacity and human expertise is widespread. Coal is regarded as a safe and reliable fuel in countries with little or no domestic coal production. Japan where 28 per cent of electricity is generated using coal is the world’s largest steam coal importer. In Denmark also, around 46 per cent of electricity is produced from coal, mostly imported.

In an attempt to increase share of coal in energy mix, the PPP government in August 1995 signed agreement for Keti Bunder project with Electric Power Asia Ltd (CEPA). The project was based on imported coal. The project was expected to be completed in 2001. It could have paved the way for fast-track development of the Keti Bandar port complex. However after dissolution of PPP government in 1996, the project was abandoned citing the reason that CEPA intended to import coal instead of utilising deposits in Thar.

Pakistan needs cheap electricity and this can only be achieved by focusing on local and imported coal based power projects. So far, the government has focused on Thar coal project and paid little attention to other options.

Available information suggests that the 450MW coal power plant based on Lakhra coal field is one viable option. Lakhra Coal Development Company Limited (LCDC) has 44 mines fully developed, capable of each producing 40 to 50 tonnes coal per day while 39 mines are under development. Average annual production of coal from Lakhra is over one million tonnes. Most of this production is used in the Wapda power plant at Khanote (Sindh) and in brick kiln industry. Around three million tonnes of coal was extracted up to 2008.

The Sindh Coal Authority has estimated the measured coal reserves as 246 million tonnes and indicated coal reserves as 1,328 million tonnes at Lakhra Coal field. According to the estimates, coal requirement for 450 MW plant for 30 years is 90 million tonnes while coal requirement for 150 MWplant for next 30 years is 30 million tonnes. These calculations suggest total coal requirements for 600 MW for next 30 years are 120 million tonnes which require reserves of 162 million tonnes with 65 per cent extraction by U/G mining method for 30 years plant life.

Lakhra coal field is connected by a metallic road with Indus Highway, which runs along the right bank of river Indus. Standard gauge single rail track is also available near Khanot village along the side of the highway at a distance of about 17 km from the proposed project area. River Indus is flowing at a distance of 35 km in the east of Lakhra coal field. High voltage 132 kV power transmission line is also available at a distance of 25 km near Khanot.

Another option is power plant based on imported coal. Such project could be completed in three to four years. Producing 1000MW requires around five million tonnes per annum of sub-bituminous to lignite coal. Karachi Port Trust (KPT) is already handling around three million tonnes of imported coal mostly used in Pakistan Steel and some cement plants. However to mitigate environmental and health impacts of coal handling on population living in the vicinity of KPT such facilities should developed at thinly populated Port Qasim.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn...ojects-319
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