The Thar Block-1 integrated coal mine and power project involves a 7.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) open-pit coal mine and a 1.3GW ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in the Thar region in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
The £2.6bn ($3.2bn) integrated project is being developed as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Shanghai Electric Group, a Chinese power generation and electrical equipment manufacturing company, is the main sponsor of the project.
Shanghai Electric announced the financial closure for the coal mine component of the integrated project in February 2020, with the first unit of the power plant scheduled for commissioning in August 2022 while the second unit is expected to come online in 2023.
At full capacity, the 1.3GW coal-fired power plant is expected to generate affordable and reliable electricity for approximately four million Pakistani households.
The 7.8Mtpa Thar Block-1 coal mine is being developed by Sino-Sindh Resources (SSRL), a subsidiary of Global Mining (China), which was awarded a 30-year mining lease for the Thar Block-1 coalfield in October 2011. The feasibility study for the mine was completed in March 2012. Shanghai Electric agreed to become the controlling shareholder of SSRL in September 2018.
The 1.3GW coal-fired power plant is being developed by Thar Coal Block-I Power Generation Company (TCB-I), a subsidiary of Shanghai Electric. The Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB), Government of Pakistan, signed an implementation agreement (IA) with Shanghai Electric for the power project in December 2019.
Location and site details
The Thar Block-1 covers approximately 122 km2 in the southern part of the Thar coalfield area in the Thar Desert in the Sindh province of Pakistan, approximately 380km east of Karachi.
The Thar coalfield area covers approximately 9,000 km2 and is bounded by the Pakistan-India border to the north, east, and south.
The 1.3GW coal-fired power plant being developed as part of the integrated project is located approximately 5km away from the pithead of the Thar Block-1 coal mine.
Thar coalfield discovery and geology
The Thar coalfield located in south-east Pakistan is considered to be the biggest coalfield in Asia. The massive coalfield was discovered by the Sindh Arid Zone Development Authority (SAZDA) and the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA) in 1988. A test drilling programme carried out in the early 1990s further confirmed the presence of thick coal beds under the dune sand of the desert.
A total of 20 coal seams of the Paleocene Bara Formation have been discovered at the coalfield. The thickness of the coal seams ranges from 0.2m to 36m with the roof and floor rock of the coal beds mostly composed of clay-stone.
The Thar coals are brownish-black in clour and have an average calorific value of 10,321BTU/kg with 49.01% moisture content.
The Thar coalfield is estimated to hold more than 175 billion tonnes of lignite resources, while the recoverable coal resources for the Thar Block-1 mine are estimated to be 3.8 billion tonnes.
Thar Block-1 coal mine and the power plant operations
The Thar Block-1 coal mine will be an opencast coal mining operation with an estimated mine life of 30 years. The average stripping ratio for the mine will be 5.88m3/t, while the annual coal output will be 7.8Mt.
The adjacent power plant will be equipped with two ultra-supercritical coal-fired units of 660MW capacity each. The power plant will operate with higher net efficiency along with higher acid gas removal rate and lower sulphur dioxide emissions compared to the conventional thermal power plants.
The electricity generated by the Thar Block-1power plant will be transmitted through the 660kV Matiari-Lahore high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission line which is currently under construction as part of the China-sponsored CPEC programme.
Contractors involved with the Thar Block-1 mine and power project
China Coal Technology and Engineering Group (CCTEG) was engaged to conduct a bankable feasibility study for the Thar Block-1 coal mine.
The main contractors for the coal mine project are Shanghai Electric Engineering Consulting Company and Shanghai Electric Hongkong International Engineering Company.
The equipment for the power plant are also being supplied by Shanghai Electric’s subsidiaries.