Viability of Thar Coal project

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This note is in response to the charges raised by Dr A Q Khan against Dr Samar Mubarikmand. I am in agreement with Dr Khan due to the following reasons:
1. Dr Khan is a metallurgist which is linked with mining while Dr Samar’s area is Electronics which is far removed from natural deposits like Thar Coal.
2. Development of Thar Coal is vital for the energy future of Pakistan for which established technologies should be applied for fast track development.
3. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is an emerging technology which is not in commercial production any where in the world. All plants quoted by Dr Samar are pilot plants.
4. UCG Association in UK is the premier body that is involved in the development of this technology. I have just returned after presenting a paper in its international conference on May 02, 2012. According to the guidelines as laid down by the International Energy Association (UCG ISBN 978-92-9029-471-9) UCG is unsuitable for a shallow mineable deposit like Thar.
5. Presence of water close to the coal deposits is a big problem for UCG. According to the Thar Coal Energy Board (TCEB ) all the 18 holes dug by Dr Samar’s team were hit by water. Similar was the fate of the 8 feet dia well dug earlier by a contractor.
6. Dr Samar’s pilot work has to be evaluated by experts before moving into commercial production. The false propaganda must end emotional appeals by un-informed individuals cannot get funds.
The professional evaluation by experts will provide an opportunity to Dr Samar to withdraw gracefully from this misadventure. Digging for a Test Pit is the only way forward. Commercial mining using established technologies can deliver the much needed fuel to fulfil the energy needs of the country. UCG is at least 5 years away from the commercial application and is unsuitable for Thar. Pakistan needs coal today for which mining is the only viable approach, a test pit followed by a production mine is required.
Dr Farid A. Malik,
Former Chairman
Pakistan Science Foundation


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