Tuesday August 09, 2022

Energy experts call for utilising local coal reserves for power generation

By Our Correspondent
June 26, 2022

It is high time that Pakistan adopt a safe and balanced approach to exploit its vast coal reserve for power generation with least damage to the environment to overcome energy shortfall without burdening the economy.

This was one of the main recommendations of a seminar titled ‘Coal Energy: Myths and Facts’ organised by the Citizens for Environment in collaboration with the Institution of Engineers Pakistan (IEP) on Thursday evening.

The speakers at the seminar noted that Pakistan’s reliance on coal for electricity production had been much less than the global average for the same and hence, this indigenous energy source should extensively be used to protect precious foreign exchange reserves that were otherwise constantly being spent to import expensive fossil fuels.

It was highlighted that owing to global energy insecurity caused due to continuing war between Russia and Ukraine, many European nations had been compelled to revive their decades-old coal-based electricity plants to avoid energy shortages for their countrymen.

Sohail Basheer, the IEP chairman, said that after hydroelectricity, indigenous coal reserves had been proved the cheapest energy source across the world.

He said the coal reserves in Thar could go a long way to make Pakistan an energy surplus country with least reliance on imported fuel for power production.

Energy expert Dr Azim Akbar said that Pakistan had one of the world’s largest reserves of lignite coal that was largely untapped.

He said that in addition to power production, the coal reserves in the country could easily be converted into liquid fuels and gas useful for a number of industries.

Dr Nuzhat Khan, former director-general of the National Institute of Oceanography, said that all over the world, 40 per cent of electricity production was coal-based while Pakistan’s reliance on coal for the same had been much less.

She said the exact determination of the national coal footprint would be helpful to adopt a safe strategy for exploiting indigenous coal reserves for power generation. Pakistan should adopt the latest clean technologies for coal-based power generation, she added.

Environmental consultant Rashid Usmani suggested that a committee comprising all the relevant experts be formed for adopting an effective national strategy for consuming indigenous coal reserves of the country for power generation with maximum safeguards for environment.

Faisal Iqbal Siddiqui, the general manager technical at the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), spoke about the vast potential of coal in Thar and how the SECMC had been able to exploit this vast natural energy source, and at the same time mitigated the environmental effects associated with coal-usage.

He also rejected the reports claiming that the coal available in Thar was of low quality. He said the lignite available in Pakistan, and especially in Thar, was as good as anywhere else in the world. Thar has the potential to solve the energy crises of Pakistan for ages to come, he maintained.

A question-Answer session was later held, where the audience debated and argued on various aspects of coal usage, handling and transportation, especially those occurring in the immediate vicinity of human settlements.

A question was raised regarding the underground gasification of coal and the potential it had to solve the energy crises. It was stated that in the presence of tried and tested power generation through coal power plants, the underground gasification was a tricky method, which still needed more development to be able to match the power generation capacity of regular coal power plants.

Another member of the audience said that a few years back, the Supreme Court had stopped coal activity at the Karachi port declaring it injurious to human health due to being in close proximity to human settlements. He added that petcoke was still being imported to the port and its physical properties were very near to that of coal dust, and equally injurious to human health.

To this, Usmani remarked that the Karachi Port Trust had been following the Supreme Court order.

Nooruddin Ahmed, the chairman of Citizens for Environment, said that his non-governmental organisation would organise more such seminars to highlight other major challenges to environment in the country.


    Zia Ul Islam commented a month ago

    Using local coal has certain challenges. Hope experts come up with solutions also.

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