The Pakistani Spectator

A Candid Blog

Thar Coal Project

By Shanzeh Iqbal • Nov 4th, 2010 • Category: Politics, Worth A Second Look • 18 Comments

Thar coal reserves, outstrip the stymie bottlenecks

The Thar desert of Pakistan has one of the largest coal reserves which have been discovered yet. These reserves are explored on an area of 10,000 square kilometers. World’s largest coal fields were discovered in Thar, Sonda and Lakhra.

The Thar Coal Field, should it be developed, will yield over 200 billion ton of coal used to produce electricity, it will give way to sufficient power to make Pakistan self-sufficient in electrical power. Dependence on hydro projects and gas will be minimized.

In 1992, the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) discovered more than 185 billion tons of lignite reserves in Thar coalfield. The GSP completed coal-resources evaluation in the four specific blocks of the coalfield with an area of 356 square kilometers. On the basis of GSP studies, the required coal potential of a minimum of 500 million tons in each block has been established. It is found that there is presence of 9 billion tonnes of coal in four blocks.

The deposits are also found across the border and India is mining these deposits in Rajasthan

Thar coal reserves are estimated at 850 trillion cubic feet of gas. But unfortunately very little work is done on this.

Coal was used as an energy source. It is assumed that it became one of the reasons of the industrial revolution and increased use of electricity.

But when huge reserves of oil and gas were explored especially during the seventies, there was a shift from the use of coal to gas and oil.

It is a pity that Pakistan is a gifted country and has copious natural assets. Apart from coal Pakisan has copper, gold reserves, But still there is such a scarcity of even the basic vital needs and despite being rich in natural minerals, Pakistan is facing jagged poverty. The precarious situation is making Pakistan suffer a lot. The burgeoning external debt has reached 56 billion dollars.

Coming to the bottlenecks, there is an absence of regulatory authority of Thar coal. Hence the tariff for coal fired power plants which will be set up in Thar could not be determined. That was the reason that a federal department had refused tariff to a Chinese company which wanted to set up a power plant at Thar. Shenhua did a preliminary feasibility of Thar coal. It demanded for a tariff of 5.7 US cents per unit for the Thar project but they found the power tariff rate offered by Pakistan insufficient. There is also lack of political will and a realisation to understand how much important this project could be for Pakistan in the coming days. Then it is also said that there is absence of any regulatory approval concerning the public private partnership in Thar Coal project. On the contrary the government must encourage such partnerships.

The causes for delay in this project include the paucity of funds, sloppy attitude of the officers in the upper echelons, kleptocratic delays and the poor funding by the international agencies and donors. For instance World Bank refused to finance the Thar Coal project on the plea of global warming and carbon emissions. However according to Khalid Mansur, CEO of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Limited “We are one of the least polluters. Our energy mix includes 33 per cent of power generation from dams and another 33 per cent from gas. There is a need for proper lobbying,”

Several foreign and local companies prepared feasibility reports in the past and confirmed availability of coal deposits, but they were reluctant to start power generation because of an unfair pricing formula for coal-fired power generation.

Pakistan did not even include the Thar coal as its future source of energy in the annual report to be submitted to the World Bank. This fact is its own comment. Saner element must prevail in the policy formulations and they must be designed keeping in perspective the long term benefits.

It would be interesting to note that if 544 million tones of coal are mined then it will lead to the production of 101,800 MW of electricity a day. If these resources are properly tapped and used for the good of Pakistan we can become financially self-sufficient. These reserves promise opportunities for investors as well.
Dr Samar Mubark Mand who is the head of Thar coal gasification project has requested the government authorities to invest in this area. While speaking at a forum he revealed that coal must be treated as a matter of national security. Highlighting the bleak energy situation he said that the current energy crisis is causing losses amounting to Rs 230 billion and 400,000 jobs per year. His suggestion was very erudite that in order to tackle this energy fix, the power generation plants must be converted from furnace oil to gas oil. He said that Thar reserves can help Pakistan to make 50,000 MW of electricity for 800 years.

The government should comprehend the value of this extremely advantageous project. A new revolution of energy will be in the picture. The government should also fully exploit this potential not only to become self-sufficient in energy, but also to export the surplus coal to other countries and earn more foreign exchange. It is also argued that the coal reserves of Pakistan are equivalent to 618 billion barrels of crude oil while at present the Saudi crude oil reserves are equal to almost 260 billion barrels.

As far as the issue of pollution is concerned there is this injection technique by which the coal would be converted into methane. Thar Coal has low sulfur content and hence it is environment friendly.

Sindh Irrigation and Power Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that this project should be included in the government energy policy. In the three day energy summit which was held in April of this year it was decided that 8,000 megawatts will be generated from Thar coal by 2015.
One another suggestion is that the South Asian countries must pool their resources and launch a mega industry so that the financial restraints impeding the energy projects may be overcome.

According to an expert opinion if the power is produced from coal gasification then it would be much cheaper. Already South Africa and China are producing diesel from coal.

As gas fields in Pakistan are rapidly depleting so the effective use of the available coal will help us reduce dependence on imported oil.
The natural gas reserves have started to get diminished therefore the Thar Coal Field must be developed at the earliest to make Pakistan self sufficient in electrical power production. International financing is vital for coal extraction.

It is said that coal is a cheap source of producing electricity. If it is used then according to an estimate almost 405 million rupees per year will be saved for a plant producing 3000 ton of cement per day. In this manner this project will also save the cement industry. The power generation in this way will save the foreign exchange apart from creating avenues for more and more employments.

There is a need to develop the coal industry and from an environmental and local point of view, it must be ensured that clean-coal technology is employed and that the people of the area benefit directly and fairly from the exploitation of Thar’s coal resources.

The development of Thar coal reserves must be included in the priority list of the Task Force. Studies with geological explorations must be carried out. Policies regarding feasibility studies and proper investigations ought to be planned to save the economy which is in the grip of jeopardy and is running into snags. The use of coal is very cost effective as well.

Experts in Pakistan stress the need for developing a uniform pricing formula for electricity purchase to ensure that foreign investor is attracted.

Shahrukh Khan, the chief executive officer of the UK-based Oracle Coal Fields while allaying doubts about the veracity of Thar reserves, said that “In common with most lignite mines, Thar will need to be dewatered. The water abstracted may be used for the planned power station, after suitable treatment”.

The government must embark on exploiting the huge potential of these resources on exigency basis as it is latent to sustain the economy which is in dire straits.

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18 Responses »

  1. Read somewhere that the quantity and quality of coal at Thar is highly exaggerated-and doesn’t match to the reality at all

  2. Kashif, I agree with you. Had it been so precious, the Sindhi waderas with Islamabadi establishment would have extracted and sold it long ago to fill their pockets.

    Also I believe that this all chatter about minerals, gold and zinc in Balochistan is hogwash and bullhsit.

  3. The cartels of petroleum industries and owners of Power plants running on fuel oils are main hurdle toward this coal technology of power generation.A group of Pakistani engineers along with Australian group is trying hard to approve the project of power generation through liquified coal gas which has eliminated the lengthy process of mining .In this process steam is injected down to coal reserves and convert it in coal gas that would then pull out and can run power turbines.
    This process is extremely economical and can solve the problems of Pakistanis who are paying three times more for one unit of power.But the cartels of oil and gas including retired and serving generals, bureaucrat and politicians are no favoring it.They withdraw in last moments whenever meetings are called for signing a contract with Australian company specialized in this technology.
    Actually our mangers dont want productive development .they want to make cantonments, recruiting soldiers as ordered puppets.That is why full fledged chamcha garee is being to kiayni who is more interested to get army of Balochi men as soldiers under command of few people.They cant think of giving them independent opportunity of employment as per their local requirement.
    These commissioned soldiers are transferred their right of living from feudal lords of Baluchistan to masters of army.

  4. Coal, or gas or whatever the heck, I need continuous power.

  5. @4
    Humans are most thankless creatures of God.We totally ignore sources of power and energy which are easily available to us or naturally comes in our range.Our thankless attitude of denying God’s blessing in our surrounding when blends with personal selfish desires, there is start of deterioration of strong values of any system which usually appears in the form of extreme disorders in our system.History tells us that those people who try to get all powers under their selfish desires usually left helpless and powerless at the time of real need and desire.
    Pakistan position is just like that in this world too.Both France and Pakistan have started journey in nuclear sciences at the same time.At this time french are producing 85% power from nuclear plants and we are only producing 1 to 2% of energy through this technology.
    oh Yes we are among the top on making nuclear arms and piling in our ware houses to harass the India. for what ??still a mystery for literate class of Pakistan.
    You can asses through this example that how misuse of power is extensively used by authoritative people of Paksitan to become powerful in the region through negative ways of human development.
    Bhutto as pioneer of nuclear sciences killed in helpless status.
    Dr khan who earned billions by selling this technology of death, is begging for his freedom from court to court but no one is listening him.
    Musharraf who highly misused this program and facilitated smuggling of nuclear technology for personal earnings is living like Dhobi ka kuuta na ghar ka na ghat ka.
    So for becoming real powerful just be fair, positive and be truthful on past errors and mistakes and you would easily see what is actually available to you to empower you through indigenous sources.

  6. you are right power should be there no matter from which sources it should be come to us as it is our top most priority as driving force toward development. but data and study shows that our gas reserves are depleting in faster rate than predicted due to our mismanagement of gas reserves and present reserves are only sufficient for 25 years.So we have to come to other natural economical resources as power alternatives and focus should be given to our huge coal reserves.
    We are working hard to approve this liq coal gas project lets see when we are able to dodge few white elephants of our system who are all in all in our industrial sectors.if we are successful you would find me in Desert of thar and Baluchistan living and working there to give u people supply of power.

  7. Nazia! Informative, nice input. Kudos.

  8. Nazia Sahiba, Aslamoalikum, mien G-14 k baray search kerti yahan ai hoon. Mien Islamabad ya is kay qurb-o-jawar mien plot lena chahti hoon. Mera budget hai 25 lac rupees. Meharbani ker k mugey guide karain k mien 7 ya 10 marlay ka plot kahan lay sukti hoon.

    Jazzak Allah

  9. Mr shams begum
    never trust any body in buying property in this country even on your blood relations.
    This decision should be done after thorough personal field survey and as per requirement of your living.
    In last days a family friend wants to purchase a house which initial price was made 1 crore and 75 lakh.
    In 15 days of discussion it was reduced to I crore 45 lakh.So you can judge the demand level of sellers through this example.
    These days it is high time to invest in property as residential plot prices in Islamabad is almost 40%reduced.but no body knows how long this stage would persist as in near future there is no chance of quick gain in property deals.

  10. meharbani ker ka bata dien, islamabad mien kis jaga plot mil sukta hai 5 ya 7 marlay ka 25 say 30 lakh mien?

  11. “Dirty Thar Coal Versus Environment Friendly Kalabagh Dam in Pakistan
    & South Asia”.

    • It is very strange to note that present Government of Pakistan is advocating for Air Polluting Thar Coal Project Versus Environmental Friendly Kalabagh Dam.

    • Kalabagh dam which will increase the water resources of the country is being opposed while Thar coal project, which will consume huge amount of water and will contaminate all water, air and land resources of Pakistan is being advocated by the government.

    • Clean electricity produced by Kalabagh dam will be available to every citizen of the country while Thar coal project will pollute all water, air and land resources of not only of Pakistan but also of neighbouring countries like India and China.

    • Thar coal will effect each and every living organism while environment friendly Kalabagh will not only store water for the cultivation of land , but also will produce clean energy without carbon emmision, by that electricity it will be possible to pump out under ground water which will also increase water resources and will store water for cultivation of land, Kalabagh Dam will increase wet land for fisheries, will increase green land which will be helpful in decreasing environmental carbon dioxide produce by coal and other fuels and will control flooding and erosion of land and will save lives and lands of people.

    • Coal is one of the most polluting sources of energy available, jeopardizing our health and our environment. While Kalabagh Dam will have multiple advantages and will act as clean electricity power house, Sweet water reservoir and floods controller all these things will improve fertility of lands, will reduce poverty and will increase food production.

    The Effects of Coal on the Environment.
    Coal as a source of energy is probably the most environmentally damaging of
    all the traditional sources of energy.
    • One must keep in mind that a typical power coal plant generates 3 million tons of CO2 or 17 tons of carbon per megawatt and draws about 2.3 billion gallons of water per annum from nearby source while on land coal produces mercury which not only renders water useless for human consumption but also for irrigation purpose as well.

    • “Coal Power in a Warming World” by Barbara Freese et al, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists in October 2008 states that “The underground mining of coal is a dangerous profession, and underground and surface mining are both highly damaging to landscapes, water supplies, and ecosystems”.

    • The Natural Resources Defense Council paper entitled “Coal in a Changing Climate”, issued in February 2007 claims that “Coal mining—and particularly surface or strip mining—poses one of the most significant threats to terrestrial habitats in the United States.”

    • Figures from “Key World Energy Statistics: 2008″ show that coal is responsible for 42% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

    • “Coal in a Changing Climate” shows that coal produces large amounts of airborne toxic chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrous oxides, arsenic and lead.

    • Coal is a highly polluting energy source. It emits much more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and natural gas. CO2 represents the major portion of greenhouse gases. It is, therefore, one of the leading contributors to climate change.

    • From mine to sky, from extraction to combustion — coal pollutes every step of the way. The huge environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive option for developing countries.

    • Coal mining is responsible for acid drainage from coal mines, polluting rivers and streams, to the release of mercury and other toxins when it is burned, as well as climate-destroying gases and fine particulates that wreak havoc on human health, COAL is unquestionably, a DIRTY BUSINESS.

    South Asia.

    On one side China and India are planning to curb the Carbon emission by curbing the use of oil, coal and other fossil fuels, and Bangladesh and Maldives are crying for taking measures against rise of seas due to global warming and melting of glaciers and on other side Government of Pakistan is planning to use Thar coal which will not only cause global warming but also pollute the whole environment of South Asia but in fact will endanger the life of 3 Billion peoples living in China, India, Kashmir, Northern areas, NWFP, PUNJAB and Sindh, as the direction of smoke and dangerous gases will be from east to north west of Pakistan. And people of these areas will suffer from respiratory diseases such as Asthma, Bronchitis, Cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and people of these areas will suffer from dangers and adverse effects of smoking without smoking the cigarettes.

    Government of Pakistan is leaving no stone unturned for sinking delta dwellers people of Bangladesh and Island dweller people of Maldives under sea by wasting about 10 Million Acres feet water of River Indus from the catchments area of whole of Pakistan in the sea and is not preserving and storing that water in dams like Kalabagh and Basha, on one side people of Pakistan are suffering from acute wastage of water and electricity and on other side Government is wasting sweet water in the sea which is not only causing sea rise and erosion of coastal land for whole of subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Maldives but is also harmful for saline habitat fishes and saline and sea plants like Mangroves

    Countering Rise in Sea level and Global Warming.

    Global Warming:
    For countering global warming there is need to completely restrict use of coal for any purpose and to minimize other fossils fuels such as oil and gas and use of alternatives resources such as wind, solar and water power by means of dams like Kalabagh and Basha Dams in Pakistan should be encouraged and preferred.

    Rise in Sea Level.
    For countering rise in sea level following measures should be taken to save and to protect from submerging the people of Bangladesh, Maldives and other Island dwellers under sea.

    • All the rain and glaciers water on land should be preserved and stored in reservoirs and dams like Kalabagh and other dams for use on land( For Agriculture, Electricity generation and human consumption) and other purposes so that no water should waste in sea which will ultimately cause the rise in sea level.
    • In Coastal areas use of sea water should be increased as much as possible for Industrial and agricultural purposes.

    • After desalination and Purification Sea water should be use for human consumption as much as possible.

    • Wastage of sweet water and fertile silt in sea should be prevented and should be used for fertilization and irrigation of land and other useful purposes.

    • There should be maximum utilization of sea resources such as exploration of silt and stones from sea towards land and coastal areas.

    • There should be maximum utilization of sea resources such as exploration of sea salts for use as chemicals and other purposes.

    • There should be maximum utilization of sea resources such as sea plants such as algae and fishes to decrease the volume of sea so that rise in sea could be countered by each and every mean available.

    Already Polluted Atmosphere of South Asia.

    South Asia is already suffering from the adverse effects of Brown cloud(Accumulation of Dirty gases in upper atmosphere of Subcontinent and is having negative effects on the health of population of India and Pakistan , Moreover there is already shortage of Ozone gas in the upper atmosphere of South Asia, due to which people of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ) are not having perfect healthy bodies as compared to other races of the world, .In view of such a bad condition of atmosphere burning the coal is just like to throw the people of Pakistan into valley of death, where as there already so many poor workers are daily dying in the coal mines of Balouchistan, but no one is having any care about those poor workers.

    There are a number of adverse environmental effects of coal mining and burning, especially the glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindukush and Pamir ranges in Gilgit-Baltistan contribute significantly to the stream flow of the Indus Basin. More significantly, during the dry season these glaciers become the system’s only source. Impacts due to climate change on these glaciers have been studied in recent decades and vivid fluctuation of water flow in the Indus River Basin System has been reported.
    Due to flow of toxic gases and smoke from Thar Coal towards North and Western Pakistan, It is the responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir, Northern Areas, NWFP, Punjab and Sindh Governments to review the adverse effects of Thar coal as it is the matter of life and death of the people of these areas. As unhealthy environment due to smoke and toxic gases will destroy the beauty of land of Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan and will cause health problems such as cancer, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory and genetic diseases due to environmental pollution in the people of Punjab, NWFP, Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. Thar coal will destroy the fertility of land and will pollute the water resources of the country.

    It is the responsibility of Governments of China ,India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Kashmir and Provinces of Pakistan to persuade Federal government of Pakistan not to use Dirty coal while many dams may be constructed for generation of clean energy in Pakistan like Kalabagh and Basha Dam, it is necessary as government of Pakistan is wasting its only Indus River sweet water( 10 Million Acres Feet Water )in the sea while on the other side common people of Pakistan are suffering from the thirst and hunger due to shortage of water and electricity.
    Written By:M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI.
    Karachi, Pakistan.

  12. This is very old technolgy when coal was considered as strong polutant but now nothing like that.Try to read the process of power generation through coal and coal gas process many huge power plants of the world are succesfully working on pollution free basis.

  13. i want information related to government efforts for mining of coal..i had searched at many places but cant find info related to this topic.
    so can anyone help me please..?

  14. Mr. Khan,
    Do some google search about UCG (Underground Coal Gasification) process.
    For proving single point of Damage to Environment, u have written whole essay, which is , i am afraid, of no use, because , In UCG process, there is no damage to environment.
    Also, for ur kind information, US fulfils 45% of its electricity demand from coal. Do u oppose that ?
    U dont seem to be a patriotic pakistani.

  15. Instead of being thankful to allah all I hear is constant wining and complaining……Yes, a nation of lazy
    winers, blaming everything on polititions and rest of the world as a pastime. Your leaders are
    your own reflection in the mirror. You are the ones to blame if your leaders have been
    sitting on this project for last 20 years while the rest of you are suffering with power shortages.

    Guy from Kala Bagh lobby totally ignores the fact that this sort of power generation is environmentally
    friendly and Thar coal has very low sulfer contents. No one has said that dam project should
    be scrapped. Don’t know what his worry is!

    Thar coal is a blessing from Allah. Please don’t be among the unthankful by expressing your
    habitual negativity. Get up and make sure your leaders turn this into reality.
    This project has the potential of changing the fortunes of Pakistan.

  16. Thar Coal Underground Gasification project will appear the Blessing of Almighty Allah on Our nation, So whole nation unitedly welcome this project and pray to Allah for its successful startup and energy production. This is the only project which can grab out Pakistan from darkness.

    All Pakistani be positive and wish for the completion and success of this project.


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