Increasing coal consumption stresses need of better transportation

KARACHI: As Pakistan’s coal consumption is increasing and country has already obtained world class mechanized coal handling, transportation of coal upcountry through roads and highways needs government’s attention.

According to details, coal’s share was 20.25 percent in Energy Generation Mix for the month of December 2018 while the coal consumption stood at 467, 255 tons in the said month.

And it is reported that Pakistan is expected to import 12 million tonnes of coal in 2018-19, more than double the country’s consumption from a few years ago.

It is expected that Pakistan’s coal imports are estimated to surge to 30 million tons/annum from existing 20 million tons/annum by the year 2020.

This would be due to the planned expansion of cement manufacturers and coal-based power plants scheduled to come online in a couple of years.

Around 8.0 million tons of coal is imported by cement companies every year, while 12 million tons is imported by power plants including Sahiwal Power Plant and Port Qasim power plants.

The demand by cement manufacturers is estimated to increase by 2.0 million tons, while 8.0 million tons would be required by coal-based power plants by 2020.

It is worth adding here that Supreme Court has banned the handling of coal at Karachi Port due to pollution and other reasons, and now KPT’s coal handling has been shifted to a dedicated terminal at Port Qasim namely Pakistan International Bulk Terminal.

PIBT is the only coal terminal of the country that is well-equipped and has the capacity to meet the requirements of coal handling up to 12m tonnes of coal.

Though the shifting of coal handling from Karachi Port to Port Qasim eased the transportation of about 60 percent of the imported coal that is meant for cement manufacturers in the northern region, there is still a need of improvement in this sector.

“The country has already achieved eco-friendly coal handling at the state of the art terminal facilities at Port Qasim,” said a analyst.

The analyst added that the government should provide a dedicated cargo rail track to connect Port Qasim to other cities of the country to help minimize the environmental issues and reduce transportation cost.

The analyst added that our road infrastructure doesn’t support smooth transportation of such items like coal which requires sophistication and technical expertise.

“There is a need to develop rail system for transportation of coal to the up country and the government must give priority to this element in the wake of increasing demand of coal in the country,” said the analyst.

The analyst added that the coal being transported by trucks and open coal dump yards next to railway tracks are causing pollution and destruction of the roads.

It has been learnt that a proposal had been forwarded to the Ministry of Railways for laying four kilometer train tracks connecting PIBT to Jumagoth junction to facilitate coal transportation at a greater level.

This will not only enable Pakistan Railway to increase its revenue manifold but also save the roads and highways from an unnecessary burden, reasoned the analyst.

“In 2017, Railways announced that they were connecting the rail track to PIBT but so far no work has started for that purpose,” said the analyst.

The analyst suggested that Port Qasim should ensure that Railway line is connected to its terminal for coal transportation, as the government did earlier for the Sahiwal cargo.

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