Coal transport needs complete overhaul: study

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LAHORE: Converted coal plants can only be feasible if radical reform of the coal transport infrsastructure is carried out, reveals a study conducted by Amjad Agha, president of the Associated Consulting Engineers (Pvt) Ltd (ACE).


Most of the plants are located upcountry and the existing infrastructure cannot sustain the transportation load due to its dilapidated condition.


Agha has served as managing director National Engineering Services Pakistan and chief executive of Ghazi-Barotha project.


He advised that coal-based power plants should be set up in coastal areas of the country, while coal-combusted plants should be converted to gas.


Gas supply to the power plants should be arranged by cutting down volume to compressed natural gas stations and fertiliser plants as well as harnessing tight gas fields, he argued. Under the present plan, imported coal will be transported from seaports hundreds of kilometers to power plant sites.


The study calculated that a 500-megawatt plant would burn 1.43 million tons of coal in a year to generate 3.5 billion kilowatt hours, putting a daily coal requirement at 4,000 tons. It will require four dedicated trains to transport this much quantity from Bin Qasim port to Jamshoro or Guddu, Pakistan Railways official told The News.


He said the capacity of an old wagon run by the Railways stands at 21 tons – which are not suitable to carry forward the load.


A wagon with 58-ton capacity is actually required to meet the supply needs of the plants, he added.


The official said the Railways has to import wagons with big capacity or manufacture them locally, adding the cost would be recovered through reduced freight rate.


A train comprising of 40 bogeys (58-ton capacity each) will carry 2,000 tons of coal. Instead of two trains needed to transport 4,000 tons of coal, four trains would have to be dedicated to the transportation: one being loaded; second being unloaded; third on way to the powerhouse; and fourth on way to port.


This will also require efficient system of belt conveyors, hoppers, etc. for loading and unloading.


However, some top officials do not believe that coal transportation will pose a problem.


Abdullah Yousaf, chairman of Independent Power Producers Advisory Committee, said that it was true there was acute shortage of engines as well as bogeys, but transportation of coal to the power plants would not be a problem. The powerhouse would manage to bring in coal through trucks and trailers, he contended.


For example, 1,200 MW Hubco plant can easily be supplied with imported coal.


He also said that the National Logistics Cell was also acquiring railway engines, adding the required infrastructure was available.


Zahid Hussain, an energy expert and former managing director of Oil and Gas Development Company, agreed with the argument, saying IPPs converting on coal don’t need railway infrastructure as there are available ample sources of transportation.


He said that imported coal was already being transported to upper country in trucks and it was costing around Rs14,500 per ton after reaching the destination, which was quite feasible.


Furthermore, the study found the estimated cost of conversion to coal comes around at $618 per kilowatt hour – which, it maintained, is half the cost of erecting a new green-field coal-fired power plant. It said that the conversion of existing plants to coal would necessitate change in boilers besides other major modifications.


The study is in favour of refurbishing furnace oil-based plants or converting them to combined-cycle gas turbine power plant.


However, it recommended that power houses should be set up near Thar coalmine when the field is developed. It asked for proper cost analysis before the government takes decision regarding the conversion. With additional reporting by Javed Mirza

Courtesy:  The News

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