KARACHI: Thar is is being touted as a potential game changer for the entire country with the first ever 660MW lignite coal power plant all set to become operational by January 2019.
With 94 per cent and 92 per cent completion levels, the power and mine projects both are five months ahead of their schedule and will add the first electron from Thar to the national grid by January 2019.
This was stated by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) CEO Shamsuddin Shaikh while speaking to the media in Thar.
Engro Power Thar Limited (EPTL) and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) are the largest private investments under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the only investments which are 95 per cent owned by Pakistanis.
He also informed that on August 1, 2018, EPTL successfully connected its power plant with the national grid to receive back-feed power supply for the plant. The next part of this dream will be achieved by December 2018 or January 2019, when the first electron from Thar coal will be added to the national grid.
He said, “We should not see our coal just as a resource to produce power, in fact, the world is now converting coal into diesel and gas and we should also start working in this direction. Thar coal reserves are huge and we can use them to convert into gas that can be used for the fertilizer sector of Pakistan”.
“Our gas reserves are depleting fast and its time we start working in the direction to produce gas through coal”, he added
He urged the government to use at least 20 per cent of Thar coal by blending it with imported coal, which will save foreign exchange and enable indigenous resources to be utilised.
He informed that the cost of per unit power production from Thar coal block II would significantly reduce after the phase II and III become operational.
“We would be able to start producing electricity from Thar by January 2019”, he added.
He surther said, “660 MW of the power project is currently subcritical but we have requested the government that in phase II and phase III all projects should be supercritical which is 3 per cent more efficient than subcritical plants”.
Talking about the progress on the mine project, he said, “There is 92 per cent progress on the project with a capacity of 3.8 million tons per annum. This project is 4 months ahead of schedule and the project cost is 20 per cent less than the approved cost. He added, “Currently we have removed approximately 154 meters of soil already and we would be able to extract coal starting from 160 meters”.
He said that coal from Thar is a cheaper, indigenous and abundant resource now after the success of the first ever large scale open pit coal mine in Pakistan.
“We have set an example for the world that Pakistan is an attractive market for investment in coal mining and coal based power production”, he added.
Speaking about the ownership of the project, he said that the Sindh government has 54 per cent ownership of the project but we have received unmatchable political support from all political parties and governments for the Thar coal project.
Shamsuddin Shaikh informed the media that out of the current 4400 workers working at the SECMC site, 75 per cent workers are natives of Thar. “Engro is operating 24 schools, constructing a 250 bed hospital and several water projects for the natives of Thar”, he added.
There is a heavy reliance on imported fuels which results in constant depletion of foreign exchange and insufficient control over the fuels supply chain. This inappropriate fuel mix leads to energy losses at each level of the value chain and inadequate recoveries lead to power outages, unaffordable electricity and circular debt.
He added that SECMC was created with the vision “to develop a technically and commercially viable Coal Mining Project in Thar block II to bring energy security to Pakistan”. The total reserves of block II are sufficient to support 5000MW of energy for 50 years; enough to pull the country out of the energy crisis.
He added that the Thar coal mining project is being undertaken by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) – a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Government of Sindh (GoS), Engro Energy Limited (formerly Engro Powergen Limited) and its Partners namely; Thal Limited (House of Habib), Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Hub Power Company (HUBCO) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC). Houlinhe Open Pit Coal Mine, subsidiary of SPI (State Power International) Mengdong (SPIM), formerly CPIM, has joined the SECMC board as strategic investor with preference shares’ subscription.