International ; The News
Cement industry uses 1.35m tonnes of imported coal
Editor-in-Chief: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman
KARACHI: The cement industry is likely to have consumed 1.35 million tonnes of coal in the first half of the current financial year, a leading importer of coal told The News. Najeeb Balagamwala said the import of coal for cement-producing units has risen sharply this year following massive capacity expansion undertaken by the industry. If the coal import keeps its pace, it should reach 2.7 million tonnes by the end of current fiscal. In the whole financial year 2005-06, the industry had used 2.22 million tonnes of coal. Import of coal into the country had started rising a few years ago because of growing demand by the cement industry since it switched its plants from fuel oil to coal to reduce cost of production.Meanwhile, a coal washing plant has recently been set up at Dhabeji at a cost of Rs50 million with a capacity of purifying 2,000 tonnes per day. Local coal and imported coal of cheap quality will be washed in this plant. The plant has been imported from the UK. Besides, three more plants are in the process of installation at Lakhra. The increasing dependence of cement plants on imported coal had necessitated the establishment of coal washing plants to produce coal of specific standard meeting the requirements of cement plants. The coal washing plant would provide coal with fewer impurities, reducing the production cost of cement industry. Cement makers have to use expensive imported coal because the locally available coal does not meet their requirement.The local coal lacks the capability of producing required level of heat and has higher level of sulphur contents as compared to the imported coal. Coal is the cheapest source of thermal energy used in industrial sector. It has the potential to replace other expensive fuels such as furnace oil. Cement industry was the first sector to switch over from oil to coal. Pakistan imports coal mainly from Indonesia, South Africa and China. It has also imported coal from Australia and Russia, but only in little quantities. Pakistan has coal reserves of around 178 billion tonnes. The coal reserves in Thar are estimated at 175 billion tonnes. Pakistan produces 3.2 million tonnes of coal every year, but mostly it is of inferior quality. Miners have to go 500-1000 ft deep, which increases cost of production. The cost also rises because of manual labour, which is usually short of demand. The local coalmines are not mechanised. There are three countries in the world having reserves sufficient for next 250 years. These are Pakistan, India and China. The coal Pakistan produces has high sulphur and moisture content making it feasible for power plants, but not cement factories. Besides, local suppliers of coal are unreliable for the cement makers. They usually fail to deliver coal within the agreed time. Since cement-makers are pursuing capacity expansion, the consumption of coal in cement plants is likely to rise to 4.5 million tonnes in 2008.