Coal power generation in Pakistan

Tipoo Sultan

Coal is presently world’s fastest growing fuel particularly in the developing countries. Coal’s importance can be judged from the fact that it provides 26 % of primary energy and 40 % of world electricity supply. Coal has gained special importance due to growing concerns for energy security prompted by the abnormal surge in world oil prices to over $120 per barrel of oil, mounting tensions of the western countries with Iran, interruptions in the international supply network of gas from Iran and Russia and ongoing stand off in the Arabian Gulf. Coal offers a solution which is still found in abundance locally in most parts of the world. World coal consumption is expected to increase by 74 % from 2004 to 2030. World trade of coal is expected to increase about 40 %, from 800 million tons in 2007 to 1122 million Tons in 2030. Coal share in world energy consumption is expected to increase to 28 % by 2030 but its share in power generation is expected to remain 41 % roughly at the current level. Coal as an indigenously available resource has a strategic importance and is world’s fastest growing fuel.

Today China is world’s largest producer as well as the biggest consumer of coal which accounts for 78% of its total energy requirement. Realizing importance of coal many countries in other parts of the world have switched over to coal to meet their energy needs. India, Indonesia, Germany, USA, Australia and UK are among those countries that have embarked upon new coal based power plants. USA is world’s second largest user of coal whose 60% requirements for energy are met with coal.

Usage of coal as a source of energy, in the developing countries, has been down played by powerful multinational oil companies and cartels who do not wish to see coal as a substitute of oil that they sell. Negative perceptions about the utility of coal have some how, adversely affected policies of the countries such as Pakistan. Coal as a fuel had been ranked low on the list of Pakistan’s development priorities primarily due to concerns about its quality and requirement for huge upfront capital. Apart from this, in the absence of a strong political will to promote coal based power projects, foreign investors have not been supported as much as they ought to be. Quite a few were forced to withdraw their initiatives after incurring heavy losses. As a result what we see today is that share of coal in Pakistan’s energy mix is about 5 % and in power generation even less than 1 %. Pakistan is one of the lucky countries which are blessed with vast deposits of coal. By increasing the share of coal in our energy mix we could have conserved more valuable gas, which is deplete able resource. Unfortunately, we have compromised our future by relying excessively on natural gas, and are now running the risk of energy security.

Pakistan’s major known coal reserves are located in the province of Sindh, specifically in Thar, estimated at 175.5 billion tons which account for the bulk of Pakistan’s total reserves, estimated at 185 billion tons. Other coal deposits of significance in Sind are located at Sonda (Jharruk) 5.5 billion tons and Lakhra (Dadu) 1.33 billion tons. Current estimated value of the Thar coal deposits is $ 8 trillion and if converted into energy its values comes to $ 25 trillion. It has the potential to generate 100,000 MW of electricity for 300 years. Pakistan is 6th largest coal rich country in the world and the aggregate energy potential of these resources is more than the combined energy potential of the resources that Saudi Arabia and Iran possess. Unfortunately there are factors, other than those mentioned above, that have not supported investor’s initiatives for the exploitation of Pakistan’s coal resource in the past. These are as follows:

Lack of necessary infrastructure (roads, water, life support systems, community services and communication network) to support project activity. Inconsistent government policy. Inaccessibility to national grid. Political uncertainty. Security concerns – Law and order situation. Tariff issues originating from uncertainties surrounding price instability of the capital equipment and other input costs as well as inherent risks associated with a typical coal mining and power generation venture. Uncertainties in the lead time required in the delivery of capital equipment. Mining is a provincial subject. Thus hostage to vested interests. Coordination with Federal and Provincial Government departments and ministries.

Consequently, Pakistan continues to rely considerably on imported coal to fulfill requirements for a range of industrial applications. Major industrial consumers are cement industry, brick kilns, power plants, chemicals and steel industry. Major suppliers are China, Indonesia and South Africa. In recognition of the growing importance of coal, it should be the cornerstone of our future energy policy. GoP is committed to increase substantially the share of coal in Pakistan’s current energy mix. Under the Vision 2030 strategic plan, Pakistan’s coal power generation is planned to be increased from present 200MW (which is about 1 % of total power generation) to 1060 MW by 2010 and to 19,910 MW by 2030. Also share of coal in the overall energy mix is planned to be increased from 5% to 19% by 2030 and to 50% by 2050. According to IEA estimates presently known reserves of crude oil with project demand will last 41 years, natural gas 67 years and coal 192 years. Given the relative importance of coal in relation to highly inflated prices in the international oil market, these targets are well justified. However, given the checkered history of the plans to exploit existing coal reserves in Pakistan, these targets appear to be over ambitious. GoP will have to bring about a drastic shift in the list of its development priorities and demonstrate its seriousness through a strong political will to make these goals look real. The exploitation of cheaply available indigenous coal would help Pakistan benefit in two ways. Firstly it would help achieve objective of self reliance and relieving burden of costly oil imports and secondly to generate power, as a least cost solution.

The Quality Issue: Unfortunately, utility of the coal deposits found at Thar had been viewed doubtful. Lignite coal has certain characteristics that makes it a low BTU fuel and difficult to extract and transport. It has high moisture content (almost 40 – 50%) and mineral matter (especially sodium). These can affect adversely the efficiency of the plant by causing severe slugging and fouling in conventional boilers and thus make operation costly. But SFBD technology designed to produce dry coal, now developed commercially, provides a solution to these problems. The other concern about the quality of locally available coal relates to the presence of high sulfur content which can be dealt with Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) technology. Also the Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology is designed to make best use of high moisture lignite coal for power generation. Coal found in Pakistan has high sulphur content. Therefore for certain applications, Pakistan has to rely on imported coal. However local coal can be processed to produce clean coal by setting up sulphur washing plants at respective mine sites. Thus appropriate technologies are available to ensure desired utility of the available coal deposits in Pakistan.

Emissions and Environmental Concerns: While coal is going to be the fuel of next century, the issue of emissions control and pollution abatement shall have to be properly addressed in the context of climate change under Kyoto protocol. In the longer term one must also keep in mind that CO2 mitigation initiatives down the road may become mandatory for the countries like Pakistan. This may add to the cost of coal power generation as has happened in the developed world. The pollution abatement costs in the developed world have reached levels where projects have started yielding negative returns. 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, whereas Sind is seriously deficient in the supply of water even for agriculture; produces mercury which not only renders water useless for human consumption but also for irrigation purpose as well.

The Writer is a Management Consultant

Source: Pakistan Observer,

10 thoughts on “Coal power generation in Pakistan”

  1. I believe global power industry will continue to depend on coal for a larger part of our generation.Coal as a fuel source will continue to power the growth in emerging nations like china and India,both for utility companies and steel makers.This a very good read,keep up the good post coming.Cheers!

  2. Environment Polluting Thar Coal Project Versus Environment Friendly Kalabagh Dam.

    It is very strange to note that present Government 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 adovcated by the governement Clean electricity produced by Kalabagh dam will be available to every one citizen of the country while thar coal project will pollute all water,air and land resources of Pakistan for every one.Thar coal will effect each and every living organism while Kalabagh will not only store water for the time of need but with the generation of electricity will increase the resources of water by sucking up the underground water resources and will provide the clean electricity .
    Coal is one of the most polluting sources of energy available, jeopardizing our health and our environment. While Kalabagh Dams will have multiple advantages and will act as electricity power house,water reserevoir and floods preventor generate electricity,Store water,will improve fertility of lands.
    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.
    • 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. From 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.
    On one side China and India are planning to curb the Carbon emmision 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 on other side we Pakistanies are planning to use Thar coal which will not only pollute the whole environment of South Asia but will infact endanger the life of peoples living in Kashmir,Northern areas,NWFP,PUNJAB and Sind 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 respioratory diseases such as Asthma,Bronchitis and cancer, and people of these areas will suffer from dangers and adverse effects of somking without somking the cigarrets.

    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 heath 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 other reaces of the world.In view of such a bad condition of atmosphere burning the coal is just like to throw the people Pakistan into valley of death
    There are a number of adverse environmental effects of coal mining and burning, specially
    The glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindukush and Pamir ranges in Gilgit-Baltistan contribute significantly to the stream flow of the IBRS. 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 Sind 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 Vallies of Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan and will cause health problems such as cancer,asthama,bronchitis and other respiratory and genetic diseases due to environmental pollution in the people of Punjab,NWFP,Kashmir,Gilgit and Baltistan.

    Written By:M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI.

    1. Danny is a fraud, he robbed all those immigrants in NY according to the New York Times. He is a sneaky Indian who conned his way into getting a US citizenship.

      1. This guy is an absolute fraude I have seen him in action here in Cameroon with the femous Fortress Ciment deal which ended up as a big scam stealing everyone out on the deal. I hope to see him someday in Cameroon where a law suit is waiting to get his ass fried.

  3. Dear Danny Vaswani,

    Thanks for your expression of interest in setting up coal based methane projects in Pakistan. We shall be glad to provide you the consultancy services.

    In addition you may like to know that presently there is a specific opportunity involving a Coal Mining Project in Thar to be undertaken by the Govrnment of Pakistan on a joint venture basis as well. Please provide your email address where we could forwad to you the Request for Proposal. Apart from this opportunity there is a lot of scope for major projects in the future as well to exploit the vast resources of coal in Pakistan

    “Pakistan has the second largest deposit of coal in the world which is located at Thar in the province of Sind. Pakistan is one of the fast developing countries in Asia where demand for power has far exceeded the supply and as a result economy is suffering badly due to a supply short fall of 3000 MW. Coal deposits, despite their enormity, largely remain unexploited. Share of coal as fuel for generation of power is less than 1 percent. Thus Pakistan is desperately looking for not only serious investors to exploit its coal reserves but also for the innovative processes and application of latest technologies for efficient utilization of its vast coal resources.
    Techno-Management Associates (TMA) is organized to perform dual function as a trading house as well as a multidisciplinary consultancy service geared towards providing clients the support, advisory and representation they require to achieve their corporate objectives. TMA offers its expertise to both local and foreign clients, on investment, trade and development initiatives undertaken by the private and public sector organizations and multilateral agencies. In the arena of business, TMA offers trade advisory services and representation to foreign manufacturers and suppliers of new and second hand industrial plant, machinery, tools and equipment as well as to consultants covering a range of technical and non technical services relating to various aspects of business, economy, industry and environment. For established companies we offer management consultancy, strategic planning, business process-engineering and innovative solutions to improve their process efficiency and to help achieve their corporate goals.

    TMA strongly believes in the potential of business in Pakistan given the ambitious targets set in the medium term and strategic development plans. We seek to help client’s establish, refine and enhance their agenda’s in Pakistan and to achieve success. Pakistan is currently at the stage of economic takeoff and while it offers great opportunities for business entrepreneurship, it is also confronted with certain challenges. Identifying and capitalizing on opportunities and dealing with the challenges require special skills and in depth knowledge of the market and government policy which TMA possess. Our services are geared towards streamlining of current operations, formulating policies and devising strategies to effectively meet the challenges presented by the dynamics of a changing world as well as support new initiatives through innovative approach. TMA can offer accurate guidance and customize generic initiatives to best fit the context of Pakistan. Our modus operandi is that we seek to add value in our client’s businesses and identify the best solutions to their needs through an interactive partnership. We want our working relation to embody the difference between working “for” our clients and working “with” our clients. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst in accelerating the pace of development in Pakistan by facilitating foreign investment, transfer of technology and know how needed to maintain high standards of efficiency, productivity and quality.

    Despite of the fact that TMA was established recently, we are well connected with the business organizations both in the private and public sectors of Pakistan and possess in depth market knowledge. I possess over 18 years of experience of having served foreign missions in Islamabad, in advisory positions, including 11 years as Trade Promotion Advisor with British High Commission, Islamabad and 13 years on ARAMCO, Saudi Arabia mega gas projects.

    Please also indicate if you would be interested in participating in an international conference on coal based power generation which may come up in the near future.

    We shall be glad to discuss terms and conditions of our proposed business relationship after we hear back from you.

    Looking forward to hearing positively from you, soon.”
    Your assistance in this matter will be highly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

    Tipoo Sultan
    (Managing Director)

    Techno-Management Associates (Pvt.) Ltd
    125- Westridge – I, Street # 3,
    Peshawar Road,
    Rawalpindi (Pakistan).

    Tel: 0092 300 8545608 (Mobile)
    0092 51 5461893

    1. @Tipoo Sultan,

      We are a China company,having plan to invest in coal power project in Pakistan.

      Please contact me urgently.

      With best rgeards
      Liu Jianshe

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