By Shahzadi Tooba Hussain Syed :: According to national climate expert Dr. Qamar-ul-Zaman Chaudhry that” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has rightly highlighted the importance of moving away from coal-based power generation….. surely the indications are that the time may not be far when the countries not following green energy path would be penalized, as with a carbon tax on exports, etc. “
The United States Geological Survey and the Geological Survey of Pakistan have jointly unearthed huge coal reserves of 175 Billion Tonnes, the second largest proven coal reserves in the world, based on distanced bore holes over an area of 9,100 Square KMs in the Thar region of Pakistan, which meant a source estimate of around 194 million tons of lignite per sq km. These reserves are proven through hundreds of exploratory drill holes since 1995 undertaken by the Government. According to a social specialist at Thar coal energy board , Zafar Ali Talpur, the credibility of the reserves is additionally corroborated by independent studies and drilling conducted by John T. Boyd of USA, RWE of Germany, M/s Shenhua of China, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and M/s Oracle PLC of UK.
The energy deficit has topped the major issues and challenges in Pakistan and the energy crisis is now considered as a national security issue of the country. Keeping in mind the Asian Development Bank statement that “Pakistan has been facing rising oil prices and declining gas reserves as well as tight foreign account situation, rendering the reliance on the import of oil to fuel power plants increasingly unaffordable,” Pakistan has to divert its attention from oil and gas and to add some more ingredients to its energy basket. Coal is already in Pakistan’s energy mix but the portion is so low around 1%. The total installed capacity for power generation by public and private power plants is 22,868 MWs, but the actual electricity generation varies between 11,100 MW to 14,400 MW against the demand of more than 18,800 MW. The average gap recorded between power demand and supply is 5,000 MW. It is estimated that electricity demand will increase to more than 50,000 MW by 2020.
The current power supply capability cannot catch up with the power demand that continues to increase year after year. Under these circumstances, the public is forced to accept the scheduled and un-scheduled power outages for about 8 hours a day on average.
When power is produced from coal, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides are produced as well, which cause an increase in smog, ozone depletion and acid rain. Nitrous oxide is also a very powerful greenhouse gas. Even before the power is produced, the transportation of coal also impacts health due to the coal dust and the emissions from the vehicles. Lastly, the heavy metals from coal mine waste can seep into groundwater and rivers, of which there are many in use Pakistan.
One way to reduce that costly loss is to gasify the coal before burning it. Gasification can make power generation more efficient and allows the carbon dioxide to be separated more easily and cheaply. Existing plants, which are generally designed to burn pulverized coal, require a different approach. One idea is to burn the coal in pure oxygen instead of air. That produces a simpler flue gas from which it’s easier to pull the CO₂.
Another challenge is the “water stress”. As with most energy sources, coal-related industries—including mining, coal-to-chemicals, and power generation—are extremely water-intensive. More than 50 percent of the world’s largest coal-producing/consuming countries face high to extremely high levels of water stress, which can be attributed to the many competing demands on water resources. Coal mines depend on water to extract, wash, and process coal, while coal-burning power plants need water to create steam and for cooling. Use varies widely at different plants depending on their generating and cooling technologies. Without effective regulatory enforcement and long-term water–resource management, water–energy choke points create uncertain financial risks to companies and investors.
Water stress is not limited to geographically dry countries. Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan—all coal producers/users—are classified as highly water-stressed because they use more than the annually available surface freshwater supply for city, agricultural, and industrial development. Because naturally occurring, renewable freshwater cannot meet these countries’ needs, their cities are heavily dependent on costly alternative water sources, such as groundwater, seawater desalination, and inter-basin transfers. The more dependent an area is on alternative freshwater sources, the higher the water-related risks to its financial assets.
Pakistan has the abundant reservoirs of coal and the time is so crucial when Pakistan is in dire need to fulfill its energy demands. It has to utilize these reserves for the time being. So the best possible option is to adopt the measures acceptable to the environment. It has to take the energy efficiency measures as China Japan South Korea and India have adopted, emissions trading is one of them. It is one of the ways countries can meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon emissions and thereby mitigate global warming. Keeping in mind all the other challenges including these Pakistan has to make its policies.
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