Thar Coal is in news again. I have just returned from an international conference organized by the Underground Coal Gasification Association in London. My paper entitled; “Applicability of the UCG Process Dig or Skip” with reference to development of Thar Coal was presented on May 02, 2012. As discussed by the experts following are the basic parameters for UCG projects:
1. Coal deposits which are difficult to mine.
2. Depth of deposit greater than 200 meters.
3. Thickness of coal seam less than 5 meters.
4. Aquifers at a distance from the coal seam to be ignited.
Unfortunately Thar Deposit does not meet any of the above criterion. It is mineable, the depth of deposit is 150 meters, the average coal seam thickness is 20 meters and aquifers are close to the coal seam. Dr Samar despite warnings by experts has wasted three years and over billion rupees in a technology which is still emerging and is not suitable for Thar. As indicated by the experts in the field, digging for a Test or Development Mine should be initiated without delay to obtain bulk samples of coal and to establish the mineability of the deposit. Thar is a commercial project subject to review, audit and feasibility. Pilot level work done by Dr Samar and his team should be reviewed by UCG experts before proceeding further. In 2009 the Planning Commission had approved two Pilot Projects : UCG headed by Dr Samar and Test Mine headed by Engr Parvez Butt. Unfortunately due to unachievable claims by Dr Samar and his team the Test Mine Project was not started which is the only logical approach for the development of a deposit of this magnitude. Thar Coal is the energy future of Pakistan which has been hijacked by individuals with no experience or background in commercial mining or gasification.
Lahore, May 14.