Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Power Crisis in Pakistan

Power crisis in Pakistan has taken a horrible form. In such a situation, voices are being raised from every side whether there is any solution to these problems. If yes, why is it not being implemented? The answer to this question is quite long, and terrible as well.
There are three types of natural resources available in Pakistan in such abundance that if they are exploited, the need for several coming centuries will be fulfilled. One of them is water, which is to some an extent being used in Pakistan. The other two resources are wind and coal, which have not yet been even touched.
China’s Support
Pakistan's eternal friend, China, has expertise on these two technologies. During the last one decade, it has overcome the power shortfall up to the level Pakistan is facing several times within months, not years. In Pakistan also, efforts are being made to do this, and China is also helping Pakistan in this regard. However, the World Bank is standing like an obstacle in the way. It neither implements that project, nor does it allow for it. It is a project of generating power through coal in Thar.
Until five years ago, it was not practicable to produce power through coal in Thar. However, the new technology of gasification has made the crude coal reservoir in Thar gold. Under the new technology, there is no need to dig the coal out of the earth nor is there any need to make stoves. Experts of the entire world agree that 50,000 MW power can be generated from the Thar coal in the next five centuries. Work had been commenced on the project a few years ago. The World Bank objected that if Pakistan produced power there, it would have a negative impact on India. However, India itself is a big country of producing power through coal.
Major Hurdle
In this research report, we have focused on as to why the World Bank has become a hurdle in Pakistan's way to produce the world's cheapest power. What types of plans are formed to meet the growing need of power in the world and how much time they take in implementation? We studied China as a model because it is a friend of Pakistan and also willing to help. In this report, we will also explain what is the cheapest and alternative energy in the entire world? What are the possibilities for it in Pakistan and if work is started on it in Pakistan, how time it will take? Besides talk with Pakistani scientists and experts on energy and economy, research reports carried in world journals were also consulted in preparation of the report.
If you travel along the rough road while moving from Islamkot to Seti Dera village near the Indian border Sindh's Thar desert, you will see official vehicles of the workers busy at the wells of Block 5 moving around. These people belong to the staff of Pakistan's distinguished scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand and are striving to install 600-ft deep pipe in TP 9 well near Megi Jotar village. Digging of the well has been completed. As the work to put the pipe into the earth is completed, coal in the underground surface will be put on fire through the pipe. The coal reservoir will start burning fast, and from another pipe, gas will still start blowing out. And through this gas, Dr Mubarakmand will start producing power at a small power house established there. Hopefully, production of 100 MW power from that station will start within a few months.
Subsequently, 21 more wells will be dug in Block 5 and every well will produce gas. This would be the cheapest power produced in Pakistan. As for the per unit cost of this power, there are available reports of Planning Commission of Pakistan, Sindh Mines and Minerals Department and Dr Mubarakmand; but, these are Pakistani organizations, and we will refer to an impartial report, leaving these reports aside.
Oracle Coal Fields is a subcompany of Australia's biggest company, Regency Mines, which produces power through coal. It had expressed desire to work on the Thar coal reservoirs, and on getting permission, it got conducted a survey through its engineers. The feasibility report released by Oracle Coal Field explains that the power is generated by getting fire erupted under ground in Thar through the new technology of gasification, the project will take nearly one year in completion, and then power will be generated. It will cost four rupee per unit.
It merits a mention here that the power being used by us in Pakistan costs 10-12 rupees (PRe)per unit in average. This includes hydro power of WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) and Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and also the power generated from gas and oil. However, the cost of the power generated through rental power houses is up to PRe 15 per unit.
The coal reservoirs in Thar Desert are 30 percent more than the gas resources in Pakistan. They had been discovered several decades ago, but it was almost impossible to bring them out. According to the report prepared by Dr Mubarakmand for the Planning Commission, the reason was that these coal reservoirs in Thar were 600-ft deep under ground. First, there is 150-ft deep sand and then sea water for another 150-ft, followed by 40-ft soil and again water for another 150 ft. Then, coal starts. Owing to the nearby Run of Kutch and the sea, water is available with so much quantity that it was not possible to dig out the coal. Five years ago, the Australian scientists introduced gasification technology to exploit such sort of reservoirs in the world, and the same technology is being used in Thar.
However, the question is whether Pakistan will succeed in producing power from these coal reservoirs. There does not seem any hurdle in the way technically. However, the World Bank is obstructing Pakistan to work on the project. It says that if Pakistan generates power from coal in Thar, it will harm India. In addition, it is compelling Pakistan to work on a long and costly project worth $6 billion. This project relates to changing of gas pipelines and upgradation of Tarbella Dam. It will not benefit considerably in power generation and Pakistan will come under the debt burden of another $6 billion. In addition to Dr Mubarakmand, the World Bank itself confirms it. We will give its detail in the coming lines.
How can the World Bank prevent a company to establish a power house in Thar? It is an interesting question, but prior to understand this, it is necessary to learn about the nature of the war being fought for power generation in Thar. A detailed information about the vast coal reservoirs in Thar had surfaced in 1990. Later, efforts were again made to dig out coal from these reservoirs, but in vain. The third and successful effort began two years ago in 2009. By that time, power generation from the coal under sea water had started in Australia. China was drilling at large scale in such neglected reservoirs, and the United States had also kicked off aggressive efforts towards this direction. This trend started in 2006, and the Pakistani scientists also became alert at that time. When the gasification technology turned mature, the Planning Commission of Pakistan also submitted its proposal about it to the Pakistani Government. It was immediately approved and work was started under the leadership of Dr Mubarakmand.
When we got information about it from the people in Islamkot and the nearby areas, they said that the government and some foreigners again started moving at the Coal Fields in late 2008 after a suspension of several years. This suggests that work on the Thar Coal Fields had been started in 2008. However, according to Sind Mines and Mineral Department's documents available to us, Thar Coal Field was divided into eight blocks and five of them were given to different companies on contract. The plan was that work will be carried out on the project at a fast pace and within a year, work will be completed on at least 400 wells. It was not very difficult. The exact location of the coal reservoirs had already been identified in a survey. Even over 700 points had also been marked to dig wells in the eight blocks.
Divided Blocks
As we said above that the Thar Coal Field had been divided into eight blocks in the early 2009. The Block No 2 was given to Sindh Coal Mining Company and Engro Chemicals Company. These two companies were to complete the drilling process there in a year and generate 1,200 MW power. These were preliminary tasks, which had to be completed in one year. And for the purpose, 10 percent wells had to be dug in every block, and the remaining wells were to be dug in the coming years. And in this way, the power production would continue increasing, as Oracle Coal Field while making a reference to Karachi has written:
On acquiring the Block 4 in Thar, Oracle signed agreements with Chinese companies so that the drilling process could be started at a fast pace. These companies are already working on such coal wells in China. Second, we have also signed an agreement with KESC, which is facing a shortfall of 500 MW in Karachi at present. According to the agreement singed with the KESC, we will provide it with 300 MW cheap power. Under this accord, it would present us a feasibility report of 300 MW power plant. This plant would be established in Thar. In order to take the power to Karachi, grid line already exists there. In the next phase, as we dig more wells, we will continue increasing power production.
By the end of 2009, everything was moving on rightly in accordance to the schedule. All the companies had started creating their respective environment to work in every block. Dr Murtaza Mughal, president of Economy Watch think tank in Pakistan, conducted a thorough research into it in order to know as to what is the significance to generate power under Thar coal project and if the government can complete this project with its resources. According to Dr Murtaza's report, as it was a mega project and it was being implemented with the foreign collaboration, the Pakistani Government and the Sind Government had allowed all companies to seek funds from foreign agencies with the Pakistani Government's guarantee. Projects of big dams, power generation and related to digging out coal or producing power from it are completed with the loan from the world loan lending agencies in the entire world including Pakistan. So on the survey for the Thar Coal project too, the companies and the Pakistan government spent their resources; however, for project production, decision was taken to acquire funds from the World Bank.
International Aid
Earlier also, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank had been investing on big energy projects in Pakistan, or at least they give guarantee for it, on which basis, investment on these projects is made. The total required funds for power generation through gasification at the Thar Coal Field are PRe 600 billion.
To collect this amount, a conference was convened in Islamabad in late 2009. In addition to the World Bank, representatives of other world financial organizations and companies working on Thar Coal project also participated. When the conference started, the Pakistan officials got surprised, as the World Bank representatives had taken a U-turn.

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