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Saturday July 13, 2024

PM wants strategy for Thar coal gasification project

The total capital expenditure on the power project comes to $2.2 million per MW

By Hanif Khalid & Ag App
June 28, 2024
The image shows the Thar Block-1 Integrated Coal Mine Power Project. — APP File
The image shows the Thar Block-1 Integrated Coal Mine Power Project. — APP File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed to prepare a strategy for the Thar Coal gasification project. He is likely to convert all of Pakistan’s imported coal power projects into indigenous Thar Coal so that the nation could save tens of millions of dollars that are being spent on the import of coal.

Reputed nuclear scientist Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, who is also the pioneer of the underground gasification project in Thar, says a series of gas wells are already established at the Thar Coal Field. They are lined with special steel pipes that reach the bottom of the coal bed at 175 meters. The gasification process yields 11.25 billion cubic feet of coal gas equivalent to 4.5 billion units of electricity. Several such faces operate in parallel to generate power at the UCG Project.

Highlighting the complex procedure, Dr Samar said first the well is pressurized with compressed air injection. The coal is then ignited and compressed air injection drives the fire at the bottom of the coal seam through the horizontal tunnel established by the HDD machine to the next series of wells. The raw coal gas consisting of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane comes from the production wells. It contains impurities like ash, tar, sulfur and moisture. A purification process in a chemical plant removes them to deliver clean and dry gas fit for power production. The purified coal gas is delivered to the power station at the UCG project at Block-V Tharparker.

Dr Samar said a pilot power generation has already commenced from May 28th 2015 and is continuing to date. This power station can generate 10 MW of electricity. This capacity can be enhanced to 1,000 MW or beyond depending upon the quantum of funding.

With the hard work of Pakistan’s elite scientists, engineers and technicians, a world class facility for power generation in Thar coal fields has already been established. The project was approved for 100 MW with a completion time of two years. However, due to partial release of funds in six years since its initial approval, the first power generation of 10 MW commenced in 2015.

The main characteristic of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) process has made it possible to produce electricity without atmospheric pollution. The exhaust gases from the coal gas engines, which are emitted at temperatures exceeding 500C are utilized to generate steam and drive the steam turbine generator to give an additional 20% electricity. The overall efficiency of the project as a result of cogeneration becomes 52pc. This compares very favourably with the most efficient power plants in the world.

The total capital expenditure on the power project comes to $2.2 million per MW. The capital cost of gas generation is $1.1 million per MW and the remaining $1.1 million per MW is the cost of gas purification and power plant. With enhanced scales of power generation, these costs will be reduced. With the elimination of coal mining UCG becomes the cheapest power project per MW. The cost of electricity produced can be around 6 cents per kWh when the power generation capacity is less than 100 MW. For larger capacity, the unit cost can come down by 30pc approximately.

Earlier, chairing a high-level meeting on enhancing relations with Central Asian States, particularly Azerbaijan, in the areas of economy and investment, the prime minister stated Pakistan geographically offers a natural economic corridor to the sea for Central Asian States. He instructed the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen cooperation and trade partnership with Azerbaijan in the fields of economy and investment.

It was highlighted during the briefing that there was substantial potential for energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, and discussions were ongoing for a preferential trade agreement between both countries.

Meanwhile, talking to a delegation of young parliamentarians who called on him, the prime minister said that the government had taken historic measures in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year to provide maximum relief to the common man. The delegation included members of National Assembly Raja Usama Sarwar, Barrister Aqeel Malik, Barrister Danyal Chaudhry, Ahmed Ateeq Anwar, Nousheen Iftikhar, Rana Iradat Sharif Khan, Muhammad Usman Awaisi, Ammar Ahmed Khan Leghari, Dr Shaista Khan, Zainab Baloch, Saad Waseem and Shahid Usman. Separately, MNAs Rana Qasim Noon, Riaz ul Haq, Armaghan Subhani and Waseem Qadir called on Shehbaz and discussed matters of their relevant areas. During the meetings, they also discussed the overall political situation of the country, a PM House press release said.