Islamabad - Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) is using subcritical technology for power generation at Thar, which is causing pollution and is likely to be at the bottom in the merit order, it was learnt reliably here on Wednesday.

“We are concerned at the installation of subcritical boiler by the EPTL, which will create pollution and will be detrimental to the environment,” official sources told The Nation. Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) was formed in October 2014 to launch a 2x330 MW power project in Thar’s Block II. The power plants will generate electricity through the off take of coal extracted from Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company Limited’s (SECMC) 3.8mt/a mine, situated 5km away.

Thar coalfields, spreading over an area of 9,600 sq km, have estimated reserves of 175 billion tonnes of coal. The area has been divided into 13 blocks where exploration and assessment of coal resources has been completed. The SECMC has leased Block-II, covering over 95 sq km of land, and having around 2 billion tonnes of reserves, since October 2009.

Both the mining and the power generation projects are now included in the list of projects to be given priority under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The merit order is a way of ranking available sources of power generation, based on the ascending order of price.

Under this order, those power generation units with the lowest marginal costs are the first ones to be brought online to meet demand, and the plants with the highest marginal costs are the last to be brought on line.

However the official said that environmental safety also mattered for the government while determining the merit order, and would allow those power plants first, which use cleaner energy

When asked that NEPRA is upset with the Central Power Purchase Agency (CPPA) over not using cheaper fuel, the official said the Authority was just thinking about the fuel cost and was total ignoring the environmental concerns.

“In our merit order, cleaner energy comes first, which is hydel, followed by gas, furnace oil and then coal,” the official said, adding this order was being followed in all the developed countries.

“The power plants, being developed at Thar, are of sub critical technology, which will not qualify the merit order, particularly during the low demand season,” the official elaborated.

“If the EPTL does not address the environmental concerns, then we have to keep it at the bottom of the merit order,” he said, adding, “I am afraid that we will not be able to run Thar power plants during winter season.” The official further told this scribe that the federal government was using supercritical technology in all the three new coal power plants being set up in different parts of the country.

“The super critical plants have no comparison with the sub-critical power plants, as these burn less coal and gives less emissions, the official explained.

However, when contacted, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SECMC Shamsuddin Ahmad Sheikh branded the pollution related news just rumours.

He said that for the first time, third generation coal power plant was being used in Pakistan.

“All the existing power plants in Pakistan are from the second generation, which cause more pollution, while EPTLs will install third generation plants,” he added.

He said that state of the art European designed GE Sub-Critical Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) boiler technology will be utilised with 2x330MW steam turbines for the project.

“CFB combustion is comparatively a new technology that has a greater flexibility in burning a wide range of fuels,” Sheikh informed.

He further said EPTLs power project would meet NEOS and IFC’s emission guidelines, and added that renowned environmental consultants, Hagler Bailey Pakistan, conducted a detailed Environmental and Social Impact assessment (ESIA) of the power plant.

Sheikh added that besides ensuring the permissible limit of emission to protect the environment, the company was also planting thousand of trees in the Thar area.

“We are planting 10 trees instead of recommended one, which means we will plant 70,000 trees instead of 7,000,” the CEO said.