Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal Tuesday said that development of the Thar coal power plant is top priority of the government, which with 175 billion tonnes of coal would produce 5,000 MW annually for 400 years.

He said this while chairing a meeting to review progress of coal gasification project in Thar. Dr Samar Mubarak Mand, who is heading the project, briefed that the syngas purification plants, eight power generators and horizontal directional drilling machinery had been installed, while power production of five MW had started in May 2015. He mentioned that eight more generators and other machinery would be installed in the near future.

The Minister asked about the financial modeling, cost calculations and evaluation of the scientific model for making the project commercially viable after validation of its technological model.

Dr Mubarak Mand informed 322 million cubic feet gas could be produced along with other useful materials, including diesel. He clarified that the plant was not emitting environmentally hazardous gases in the air since the whole process was being done underground.

The Minister desired that the commercialization feasibility be prepared, and said the private or public investment could be made available for the project if it was found commercially feasible. “Since the prototype has been developed and functional, and now a business model must be prepared. In order to dispel any negative perception about the project, we must have a scientific validation of the project by a panel of eminent experts,” he said.

Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan had very talented engineers who could find solutions to problems in a cost-effective manner. “The government is focussing on developing strong technological base for future knowledge economy of Pakistan,” he said.