Islamabad: Experts at a seminar at Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad titled “Energy Crisis and Coal Reserves in Pakistan: Potential, Problems and Prospects” cited corruption, nepotism and poor governance as the main reasons behind the country’s failure in energy sector and called for drastic measures, such as focus on large-scale mechanized coal mining to produce various forms of energy from it, to be taken in order to mitigate the national energy crisis.
The seminar was addressed by Usman Amin-ud-Din, former minister for petroleum and natural resources; Mirza Hamid Hasan, former secretary water and power and chairman IPS Tawanai Program; Khalid Rahman, DG-IPS; Masud Dahir, CEO of MilleZum Consult and member IPS Tawani Program Steering Committee and its coordinator, Ameena Sohail.
“We are a nation sitting over the second largest reserves of coal in the world but still facing the worst energy crisis merely because of cumbersome practices, lack of vision and poor planning,” former federal minister and a leading expert on petroleum and natural resources Usman Amin-ud-Din lamented.
He said that 25 percent of global energy needs are being met through coal while it was being used to produce 41 percent of total electricity produced around the world. Despite having the second largest coal reserves of 184bn metric tons in the world after the US, not a single unit of electricity was being produced in Pakistan through coal unfortunately, he deplored.
Citing the oft-quoted apprehensions regarding the quality of the coal in Pakistan he underscored that South Africa was meeting 94 percent of its energy requirements through coal while the quality of its coal was lesser than the coal in Pakistan.
“The technology has developed to the extent that any quality of coal may be processed and brought into use for various purposes. It is not that the coal is of no value; in fact the people occupying and influencing the power corridors have made the whole nation hostage to vested interests”, he stressed.
He revealed that Pakistan has no energy security plan and there exists no mechanism at the Planning Commission or any other state body to forecast oil prices in the world. He claimed that the international oil prices will cross US$200 mark in 2013-14 increasing the financial burden on the national exchequer manifold to meet its oil demand and nobody was thinking where this money would come from!
He told the participants that as the nation was faced with rising oil prices and increasing gas shortages, it was likely to see even grimmer tomorrow and the only answer lies in exploring the opportunities in its indigenous resources; coal being at the top of them.
Referring to recent efforts for utilizing Thar Coal through under-ground gasification as being in the experimental stage, he opined that the technology was in a pilot stage in the US since 1960s and there were 14 major drawbacks of this technology out of which the American experts have been able to address only six so far.
“There are other proven processes and technologies employed around the world which need to be taken into consideration”, he said.
He also referred to gel fuel made from molasses which was the second major fuel source in Africa and can be easily made available to the poor masses of Pakistan as the country was rich in sugarcane production and there was dearth of sugar mills producing large quantities of molasses as a by-product.
He further said that investors in the energy sector across the world were working in more hostile conditions than in Pakistan but the main reason of their pulling out the country were inconsistency in policies and failure of the authorities to provide an enabling environment for business.
Mirza Hamid Hassan, who was chairing the session, said that there was need for developing mechanized mining infrastructure and the coal so acquired has to be brought into multiple uses.
“The whole debate about coal is with reference to power generation, while the potential of this natural resource is much more than that,” he said.
He highlighted that the need for foreign investment for the exploration of coal was a must which may be ensured only through sound policies and an enabling environment for the investors.
He said that it was not just the law and order situation, but the cumbersome procedures and fluctuating policies that hinder the foreign investment in the field of mining and exploration.
Masud Daher highlighted the latest ‘coal to liquid’ technology to meet the energy demands of the country stating that “the future lies in coal”.
He said that historically the concerned authorities in the country have neglected coal as a means of energy source and it was unfortunate that even coke was being imported so far.
He claimed that Pakistan has ‘oil’ for 200 years but in the form of ‘coal’ which can be liquefied with the help of latest technology which was being commercially employed worldwide today.