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Benefits of Gadani power plants

Pakistan’s power sector is in deep crisis due to massive loadshedding and lack of reliable power supply to meet the existing demand. This situation has arisen due to poor planning and ambiguous policies in the past for setting up new power generation facilities either in the public or private sector. In addition, the high operating system losses have rendered the utilities almost bankrupt.

According to the latest figures, the losses are equivalent to 1.4% of GDP, which is 75% of education, 200% of health budget of the country and would pay for 2-3 million household connections. The other problems include very high tariffs and poor reliability, which is hurting the industrial consumers the most. Electricity outages alone cost the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) almost 60% of their annual revenues. Most of the SMEs have closed down, while large industrial units are surviving due to their self generation, which in turn has eroded their profitability margins and competitiveness.

The projected five-year power generation requirement including the existing shortages is estimated as 12,000 MW. The cash needs of the power sector alone are estimated to be around $25-30 billion. The real challenge is to raise this amount of investment badly needed in the sector.

The present government has taken a number of key reform steps to improve the power sector entities thus creating a potentially strong base for sector recovery. The challenge now is to capitalise on this base by perusing the short-term remedial actions while building a strong medium-term strategy based on fuel diversity and security.

Energy, particularly electricity, is essential for economic and social progress of Pakistan, therefore, there is a strong need for affordable, reliable and dependable power supply to provide the essential needs of lighting, heating, cooking, mobility and communications as well as driving industrial growth in the country. Interruption of energy supplies can cause major financial losses and create havoc in economic centres, as well as potential damage to the health and well-being of the population.

As global demand for energy continues to rise, especially in rapidly industrialising countries and developing economies like Pakistan, energy security concerns become ever more important. To provide solid economic growth, and to maintain levels of economic performance, energy must be readily available, affordable and able to provide a reliable source of power without vulnerability to long-term or short-term disruptions.

Providing a secure supply of energy comprises two distinct, yet related issues:

i) Long-term security or resource availability; and;

ii) Short-term security, associated with supply disruptions of the primary fuel or of the electricity generated.

The forecast growth in energy demand in Pakistan with depleting resources of indigenous gas means that the country will need many sources of energy in future. A diverse mix of energy sources, each with different advantages would provide security to the energy system in Pakistan by allowing flexibility in meeting country’s needs.

Presently Pakistan’s power generation relies heavily on imported Fuel Oil and depleting indigenous gas supply sources with only 0.1% of its generation on a single indigenous coal-based power plant in the country.

Due to lack of resources and long time required for the development of hydropower projects, no significant development has taken place for the last 15 years. Similarly no significant progress has been achieved in developing the indigenous coal resources of the country.

Imported Coal has a unique role to play in meeting the demand for a secure energy supply for Pakistan. Coal is well-established globally and is the most abundant and economical of fossil fuels and is a reliable, secure and affordable fuel for both power generation and industrial applications. The production and utilisation of coal is based on well-proven and widely used technologies. The use of coal is built on a vast infrastructure and a strong base of expertise world-wide.

The world currently consumes over 5500 million tonnes of coal for use in power generation, steel production, cement manufacture, as a chemical feedstock and as a liquid fuel. Coal reserves are large and will be available for the foreseeable future without raising geopolitical or safety issues.

There is no doubt that there are sizeable world-wide reserves of coal, at current production and consumption rates, over 160 years’ worth are available. This is in contrast to ‘conventional’ oil and gas, with various forecasts indicating a depletion of supplies as early as the middle of this century.

Although renewable energies cannot be considered by the same measure there are issues of concern, particularly their reliability and intermittency. Nuclear energy also faces availability concerns, although these revolve around political acceptability rather than resource availability. Nuclear safety and concerns over disposal of nuclear wastes are clearly key issues.

Mined in over 50 countries around the world, coal is in a unique position to support national energy security concerns for Pakistan, particularly for electric power generation at affordable rates.

The present government has announced to set up a power generation park at Gadani with 6000 MW net capacity to be based on imported coal. Trade-off between cost to consumers and environment by installing 6000 mw coal-fired power generation at Gadani Emission standards

The emission standards for power plants are always site or location specific. For example, a thermal power plant emitting certain amount of Sox, Nox, Co2 etc can be environmentally safe and acceptable if located in a remote area away from the population or other industries. The same plant cannot be environmentally feasible if located in the vicinity of other industries or population. Air emission models are always developed for a given site in an area taking into account all the industries in that area, existing highways or motorways with vehicular traffic and wind direction.

Therefore, it is essential that a site is to be pre-selected for any technology including renewable such as Wind and Solar to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and wind dispersion models for thermal power plants to determine their viability.

Even wind power plants, (which are NOT reliable sources of energy) cannot be recommended in certain areas as they interfere with the existing navigational instruments, are noisy and may not be transported to certain areas. Similarly, solar power plants being extremely expensive, require huge lands (1 sq km per MW), which may require existing fields to be abandoned, which, of course, will not be an environmentally recommended option!

TECHNOLOGY OPTIONS The emissions from any power plant are dependent only on the type of fuel being used in that particular plant. From environmental point of view, the most feasible fuel would be Natural or imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) but its procurement and development of the infrastructure such as storage; re-gasification plant etc would not justify a 6000 MW plant.

Different fuels emit different pollutants and there is no standard yardstick to prefer one type of fuel over the other. For example, more than 8,000 MW capacity is operating in Pakistan on Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) with 3.5% sulfur content. Use of HFO is being discouraged internationally as SO2 emissions are extremely harmful to humans. On the other hand South African coal contains less than 1% Sulfur but is high on CO2 emissions. The CO2 is not at all harmful to human life as all humans and plants also emit CO2 but it is a greenhouse gas and is one of the major sources of climate change.

JUSTIFICATION OF 6000 MW COAL-FIRED PLANT AT GADANI Coal plays a vital role in electricity generation world-wide. Coal-fired power plants currently fuel 41% of global electricity. In some countries, coal fuels a higher percentage of electricity. The following table illustrates Coal in electricity generation in the world.

The importance of coal in electricity generation world-wide is set to continue, with coal fuelling 44% of global electricity in 2030. USA has 335,611 MW installed capacity on coal and India, 77,398 MW According to IEA, the total world generation in 2012 on coal was 11,943.04 million GWh. US produced approximately 2,118,000 GWh or 2,118 million GWh of electricity from coal.

GLOBAL EMISSIONS FROM COAL POWER Globally, power generation emits nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 per year. The US, with over 8,000 power plants out of more than 50,000 world-wide, accounts for about 25 percent of that total or 2.8 billion tons.


— 1 United States 2,790,000,000

— 2 China 2,680,000,000

— 3 Russia 661,000,000

— 4 India 583,000,000

— 5 Japan 400,000,000

— 6 Germany 356,000,000

— 7 Australia 226,000,000

— 8 South Africa 222,000,000

— 9 United Kingdom 212,000,000

— 10 South Korea 185,000,000

PROJECTED POWER GENERATION ON COAL IN PAKISTAN The generation on coal in Pakistan is negligible at present, however, the planned generation capacity addition until the year 2018 is around 6000 MW net, which can generate around 31,536 GWh per year. Therefore, the coal-based generation at Gadani in Pakistan planned until 2018 would be 0.000264% of the total coal-based generation in the world.

This amount is negligible from any standard. Although global warming is an international phenomenon, but the above said figures tell that there will be practically no contribution of Pakistan to global warming in the world scenario. Furthermore, the most efficient and state of the art coal-fired power plants with super critical boilers are proposed to be installed in the Gadani initiative, such super critical boilers are designed to emit 40% less pollutants than the conventional-boiler-based power plants operating since the last 20 years in most of the above mentioned countries. It will certainly contribute to the reduction in global warming if inefficient old and large coal power plants are closed by the top CO2 emitting countries.

The installation of 6000 MW net imported coal-fired power generation complex will replace approximately 6.8 million tons of HFO causing a loss of around US $5 billion per year to the oil companies at prevailing rates. Therefore, it is obvious that a negative campaign has been launched by them to protect their interests.

TRADE-OFF BETWEEN COST AND ENVIRONMENT The actual trade-off between cost and environment would be due to the installation of super critical boilers and mitigation equipments and systems such as electrostatic precipitators as well as higher stack heights, which are somewhat expensive but are capable of reducing the emissions to acceptable levels. The Government of Pakistan should specify emission standards for imported coal.

There are specific standards for cooling water intake and outfall into the sea wherein the temperature rise is limited to a maximum of 30C. The 1200 MW Net capacity Hub Power project has the same criteria for discharge of cooling water into the sea wherein there is no harm to the marine life.

(The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the newspaper)


Coal in Electricity Generation


South Africa 94%       Poland 93%         PR China 81%

Australia 76%          Israel 71%       Kazakhstan 70%

India 68%              Czech Rep 62%       Morocco 57%

Greece 55%             USA 49%             Germany 49%

Shahid Hafeez Ahmed, "Benefits of Gadani power plants," Business Recorder. 2013-10-02.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social problems , Energy crisis , Power generation , Economic issues , Energy resources , Power plants-Gadani , LNG , Pakistan

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