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India seeks collaboration with SA on coal gasification technology

India seeks collaboration with SA on coal gasification technology

By: Ajoy K Das
Published: 26th February 2013

KOLKATA ( – India would seek to collaborate with the
South African government in underground coal gasification technologies
and to develop projects in India through suitable joint ventures (JVs).

According to an official in India’s Coal Ministry the request for
bilateral India-South Africa cooperation would be a follow-up of a new
policy for underground coal gasification, which was likely to be
announced shortly.

The official said that a comprehensive policy encompassing all aspects
of underground coal gasification, including  technology availability, the
assessment of appropriate reserves, project implementation and the
pricing of gas, had assumed urgency in view of India’s extremely tardy
performance in this energy subsector and the shortage of coal available
for power generation, despite the country’s huge coal reserves.

The South African government’s facilitation would be sought through
either government-to-government agreements or technology and project JVs
between companies, particularly for gasification of coal below depths of
300 m, the official said.

India’s first coal gasification project was initiated six years ago in
the western Indian province of Gujarat as a JV between oil exploration
and production major ONGC and Gujarat Industries and Power Corporation.
However, the project has failed to take off.

It was pointed out that with 350-billion tons of potential coal
reserves, only one-third was mineable and not one coal gasification
project had been successfully implemented in India, while China had over
40 coal gasification plans running and had even moved to the next stage
of converting coal to diesel.

Coal Gasification Policy Needed Before Blocks Are Allocated

The formulation of a coal gasification policy was a necessary
precondition to the allocation of coal blocks, particularly against the
backdrop of $33-billion in revenue charges against the exchequer brought
by the national auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General, in the
previous coal block allocations.

The Coal Ministry estimates that even if 5% of India’s unmineable coal
reserves were to be successfully exploited for gasification, it could
yield three-trillion cubic metres of gas equivalent.

While the appropriate technology was not available within the country, a
pilot project has been successfully implemented, which had driven the
government’s attempt to seek collaborations with countries like South
Africa, an official said.

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