Advice to policymakers: Follow world and increase coal share in energy mix

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Tuesday urged policymakers to reduce the use of imported oil and gas by increasing the share of coal in the national energy mix.

Addressing a seminar titled “Energy crisis and its solution”, organised by the Islamabad-based Centre for Discussion and Solution, Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) Thar Project Managing Director Dr Muhammad Shabbir said the share of coal in the energy mix was only 2.27%. On the contrary, the worldwide share of coal in energy mix was 41.6%.

Giving the example of India, which meets 53% of its energy needs through coal, Shabbir said it was unfortunate that Pakistan did not utilise its vast reserves.

Talking about the increasing reliance on natural gas in recent years, he said Pakistan met about 45% of its energy needs through gas, which was considerably higher than the global average of 20.87%.

Quoting a report of the Asian Development Bank, he said the economy suffered an annual loss of Rs230 billion due to the energy crisis.

Citing a study of the Beaconhouse National University, he added that about 400,000 people had become unemployed because of electricity shortages. “These issues can be resolved if we harness our energy resources wisely.”

Spread over an area of 9,600 square kilometres, Thar reserves are estimated to hold 175 billion tons of coal. Referring to Block V that has been developed by the UCG project, Shabbir said it was spread over 64 square kilometres and had estimated reserves of 1.4 billion tons of coal.

It can produce 10,000 megawatts of electricity for 35 years, he said. “If only a small block can produce that much energy, imagine the total output if the entire 9,600-square-kilometre field is developed.”

Shabbir also complained that out of total allocation of $115 million, the project had so far received only about 10% of the promised amount. He said 20,000 barrels of diesel could be produced using the Thar coal reserves at the rate of $40 per barrel with an investment of $650 million.

Similarly, he added, 2,200 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas could also be produced from Thar reserves, which is equal to the expected gap between demand and supply in 2015, with an investment of $1.12 billion.

Giving a sector-wise breakdown of gas utilisation, Shabbir said the share of industry was 26%, fertiliser sector 17%, household 17%, transport 7% and power generation 28%.

Speaking on the occasion, oil and gas sector expert Shoaib Farooqui said the share of gas in the country’s energy mix had increased 16% in the past seven years, adding that gas shortfall would be 6.5 billion cubic feet after eight years.

He noted that while crude oil fulfilled 13% of energy needs, Pakistan spent a hugely disproportionate amount on its oil import bill.

Emphasising the need for more oil exploration, Farooqui said 70% of Pakistan’s sedimentary area remained unexplored. He urged policymakers to explore shale gas, tight gas and coal reserves, saying about 241-281 trillion cubic feet of gas could be extracted using these unconventional sources of energy.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28, 2012.

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