Thar coal plant begins power generation

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With the ongoing battle against energy crisis, the Sindh government finally generated one megawatt from the Thar coal power plant through an underground coal gasification process on Thursday.

According to officials, power generation will be enhanced to 10MW by the end of this year and 100MW by 2016.

“We have successfully produced 1MW and 4MW is present in our system. Initially, the electricity will be supplied to our projects and a nearby village,” said renowned scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand, who heads the project.

Ten wells have been dug up for Thar coal-fired power plant near Islamkot, each with a distance of 50 metres. After the gasification process, pure gas is connected to coal gas generators imported from China from where the electricity is produced, according to officials.

“In these wells, steel pipes are drilled down to 600 feet to reach the coal bed and pump out underground water. We later fire the coal inside with compressed air to produce the gas mixed with other particles,” said Engineer Abdul Manan Larik, who supervises work on block five of the coal field in Tharparkar.

“We have installed a gas purification plant to get rid of unnecessary particles including carbon and sulphur in order to produce pure gas that is linked with generators,” Larik said.

He said the government had earlier allocated Rs10 billion for this project to generate 100MW under the gasification pilot project, but due to financial constraints, there has been no tangible progress in the past five years.

“We have so far received Rs3 billion. We would have finished our task had funds been provided on time,” he said, adding there was no transmission line in the area and the government was going to earmark funds for it.

Mubarakmand was of the view that there was around 175 billion tons of coal reserves that have the potential to generate 5,000MW for at least 800 years.

“The same quality of coal is found in Austria where power is being generated through under-ground gasification. Pakistan is blessed with many natural resources, but there is a need for proper planning and implementation,” he said.

On the other hand, the provincial government in collaboration with Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company has started open-pit mining on block two in the same area. They have announced the setting up of two power plants with generation capacity of 330MW and 660MW by 2018.

Officials in the energy department said the entire exercise required an estimated $2 billion.

“Around $1 billion will be spent on the development of the coal-fired power plant and $0.9 billion on mining,” a senior official said.

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari conducted the ground-breaking of the power plant some time ago, the federal government has yet to issue the schedule to lay the transmission line to link the Thar coal power plant with the national grid.

“The Sindh chief minister sent a second reminder to the federal government and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company, asking for a schedule for the transmission line as 100MW is likely to be produced from the Thar plant by next year, but all in vain,” said a spokesperson for the Chief Minister House.

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