Pakistan can use coal to make power with ‘zero’ emissions: WealthPK

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan should apply eco-friendly techniques like underground coal gasification, carbon capture and chemical looping to use coal efficiently to make electricity without compromising on its international commitments to reducing carbon emissions.
According to the Planning Commission’s report titled “Mineral Transformation Plan 2025”, Pakistan’s total reserves of coal stood at 186.476 billion tonnes, excluding the recent discovery of three billion tonnes of reserves in Thar.
The Sindh province has the largest amount of reserves of 185.3 billion, accounting for over 99% of the total.
Despite having such huge amounts of reserves, Pakistan is an importer of coal. Pakistan imports coal from Afghanistan, South Africa and Indonesia. Higher demand for the cement sector due to surge in construction industry increases the demand for coal.
As a result of increasing demand, the share of coal in Pakistan’s import bill is increasing.
Increasing the overall productivity and profitability of coal could be made possible with the support from the government and the private sector.
While increasing the production of coal and using it to produce energy, Pakistan, however, must stick to its commitments to the international community to reduce activities harmful to the environment.
Countries’ commitment to keeping the global temperature below 2°C under the Paris Agreement is gradually limiting the use of coal to make electricity worldwide.
Coal burning is one of the top carbon emitters as it produces Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen oxide, and Carbon dioxide, which are very harmful to the environment.
Now the question arises as to how can Pakistan and other countries with huge coal reserves stop using this asset, which is important for their energy production and economy.
There are many pieces of research underway to use coal efficiently to make it a zero-carbon producer.
One of the technologies being used is the gasification of coal. Instead of burning coal, the technology chemically transforms coal into synthetic natural gas (SNG). US and China both are using this technology.
Along with this, underground coal gasification (UCG) is also a process being used in Uzbekistan, Australia and South Africa. The process is an environment-friendly way of harnessing the energy of coal.
Moreover, researchers at the Ohio State University in Columbus believe that they have found a process called chemical looping to use coal.
Dr Liang-Shih Fan, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said that he and his team had been able to use the process called coal-direct chemical looping to burn coal without emitting pollution.
Pakistan needs to establish a research institution to study the use of these methods and also to determine if there are any other ways through which it can utilise its huge coal reserves without compromising international commitments on global warming.