SoDATA (South Data) — A 145-kilometer railtrack will be laid from Chhor to Islamkot to transport coal from Thar Coal field to Port Qasim in Karachi and upcountry.
The rail project is in addition to the installation of 1,320 Megawatt minemouth power plant in Thar Coal Block-VI as a CPEC-funded project.
Feasibility study of the track and the rolling stock on BOT basis is underway, says a reliable source on condition of anonymity.
A railway line to transport coal from Thar to Keti Bandar is also under study. Keti Bandar is located about 107 km from Thatta city and 150 km from Karachi via Gharo.
According to an energy professional who worked on Thar coal mining and power plants projects, coal from Thar can only be used at the mouth of the mine to produce power. It is brown coal, has high moisture and ash content.
Shahid Malik, an energy entrepreneur whose firm is installing a project at Thar to gasify lignite says “key is how much coal needs to get to Sahiwal for the 1320MW imported coal fired plant. The imported coal is costing as much as LNG to these plants in Punjab”.
Can Thar coal be shipped north to coal-fired power plants in Punjab?
“This is possible as long as you have railway connection. Else it’s very difficult”, says energy professional.
According to some observers, Thar coal cannot be transported due to long-distance transport [from Karachi to Sahiwal].
“Thar coal shelf life is 10-15 days. So it can be utilized in nearby areas, for example Karachi”, says the energy professional.
The US$1.8bln plant — part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) early harvest project, is at the load center with three major power consuming cities in its vicinity i.e. Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan, and meets the electricity demand of more than 4 million typical households.
The government buys electricity from the power plant at 8.3601 US cents/kilowatt hour.