Saturday, May 23, 2009

PDB eyes four power plants based on imported coal

Staff Correspondent, NewAge, May 23, 2009

The Power Development Board will soon send a proposal to the government to take steps for installation of four power plants, each with 500MW capacity, which will be powered by imported coal, said officials.

‘As there is gas shortage and uncertainty prevails over extraction of coal from the remaining coal-fields in the country, we will request the government to take steps as soon as possible to install four power plants powered by imported coal,’ said a high official of the PDB.

The planned power plants could be set up in Chittagong, Khulna, Meghnaghat and Madaripur, near the proposed Padma Bridge, as these locations have water transport facilities for carrying imported coal, said PDB officials.

They said that the PDB had already raised the issue with the parliamentary standing committee on power and energy early this month and the committee gave a positive response.

Officials said that around $2.5 billion would be needed to install the power plants.

They said that the government needed to install coal-based power plants immediately if it wanted to fulfil its pledge of increasing electricity generation to 7,000MW by 2013 from the existing 3,800MW.

As per the government’s Power System Master Plan, the current demand for electricity in the country is supposed to be 6,066MW if the GDP is 5.2 per cent or 6,567MW if the GDP is 8 per cent.

The country’s demand for power will be 8,364MW in 2013 if the GDP is 5.2 per cent at that time and 10,473MW if the GDP increases to 8 per cent.

The Awami League’s election manifesto says that it will increase the GDP to 8 per cent and electricity generation to 7,000MW by 2013.

‘All the power projects in the pipeline and the proposed projects are gas-based. With the projected supply of gas, it will be hard to increase the power generation even to 5,000MW by 2013. So there is no alternative but to go for imported coal as uncertainty prevails over extraction of coal from the country’s coal-mines,’ said another official.

The PDB runs a 250MW coal-based power plant in Dinajpur with coal from the country’s lone coal-mine in Barapukuria that produces around 3,000 tonnes of coal per day.

The decision to extract coal from the country’s four other coal-fields has remained shelved because of the dispute over the mining method. Environmentally concerned citizens are totally against open-pit mining which is cheaper and extracts more coal, but is ecologically destructive.

Officials said that an attempt to import coal from Indonesia and Colombia was failed during the interim government as it was found the price of coal was too high, around $120-$160 per tonne including transportation and other costs.

The government recently completed primary negotiation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency for conducting a Master Plan Study on Coal Power Development.

Sources in the Power Division said that JICA identified 14 locations, including the four mentioned by PDB, where coal-based power plants could be set up.

They said that JICA might provide the fund for installation of two 500MW power plants if government can persuade it to do so.