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Coal as a primary source of energy towards energy security of Bangladesh

State-owned Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB) entrusted with the responsibilities of deciphering the geology of the country, exploring geological resources (except oil and gas), all sorts of geological and geophysical mapping, environment and urban geology and geo-hazard studies.

Important geological resources discovered by GSB are Coal. Limestone, Hard Rock, White Clay, Glass Sand, Peat, Heavy Minerals and Construction Aggregates (sand and gravel). 

Coal Reserve of Bangladesh

GSB played an important role in the coal discovery of the country through systemic survey.  Coal reserve of the country are listed in the following Table.

Table: Coal Reserve of Bangladesh

Table: Quality of Coal in Bangladesh

The coal is low sulfur bituminous coal. Gross calorific value between 11,000-12,500 (btu/lb)

Silent Features of Coal in the World

Coal is actively mined in 70 nations, with 85% consumed within the country in which it is produced. Only 15% of coal is traded internationally. The ability to readily transport coal by ship, barge, rail and truck, without the need for pipeline infrastructure, contributes to coal’s supply stability.

Coal also has the unique advantage of being able to be stored on-site, providing weeks or even months of fuel supply at the power plant. This important characteristic contributes to grid reliability, resiliency and reduces fuel supply bottlenecks.

Most of the world’s coal exports originate from countries which are considered to be politically stable, including the U.S., reducing the risk of supply interruptions. Consider, by contrast, that over 53% of the world`s natural gas reserves are controlled by Russia, Iran and Qatar, while more than 50% of the world’s oil reserves are located in the Middle East.

Coal provides 30% of global primary energy. It is used to generate 41% of global electricity. It is also used to produce 68% of the world`s steel and is a key source of energy in energy-intensive industries, such as aluminum and cement production.

Use of Coal in Power Generation

Coal is widely used in the power generation worldwide. Coal based power plants provide over 42% of global electricity supply. There are 400 coal-powered electric plants are present in the United States.

As the world prepares for the Paris climate change talks later this year, moving to renewable sources of energy is a key part of many countries’ plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, in 2012, 40.4% of all electricity production worldwide still came from coal.

China produces the most electricity from coal by a long margin-3,785 TWh, more than twice as much as the US in second place. India, Japan and Germany complete the top five. Bangladesh has only one Barapukuria coal-based power plant in Dinajpur. 

Prospect in Bangladesh using coal as the source of energy

With the looming gas crisis, Bangladesh is gradually shifting its primary energy focus from gas to coal. The government is taking full-fledged efforts to identify cheaper and more reliable alternatives like coal. Government has a plan to produce 20,000MW of electricity by 2021 as per Vision 2021. Bangladesh has only Barapukuria coal-based power plant in Dinajpur having 250 MW capacity (two units).

Third unit of Barapukuria coal-based power plant in Dinajpur is underway to add 275 MW to the national grid by 2018. The Rampal power station is a proposed 1320 MW coal-fired power station at Rampal Upazila of Bagerhat District in Khulna, Bangladesh.

The Matarbari Power Plant is a proposed 1,200 MW coal-based power plant  to be built in Moheskhali Upazila of Cox’s Bazar District. The Payra Power Plant is a proposed 1,320 MW coal-based power plant to be built in Kalapara Upazila of Patuakhali District.

Bangladesh has sufficient and proven reserve of coal especially in Northern parts of Bangladesh which is around 3 Billion Ton equivalents to heating capacity 37 TCF gas. With the present reserve Bangladesh can produce- 

  • 250 MW electricity daily require yearly 0.65 million tones of coal to run a Thermal Power Plant
  • 5000 MW electricity daily require yearly 13 million tones of coal to run a Thermal Power Plant
  • 25% recovery from Barapukuria, Phulbari, Khalashpir and Dighipara coal fields
  • 562 million ton of coal can produce 5000 MW of electricity  daily for about 44 years
  • 562 million ton of coal can produce 10000 MW of electricity daily for about 22 years.

Advantage of Coal is as source of energy

The reasons are listed below:

  • Cheapest source of energy.  It is by far cheaper than nuclear, natural gas, oil. 
  • Coal also provides a stable source of energy (no Arab oil embargoes, no sudden scarcity like you experience with natural gas)
  • Coal provides many jobs.  Unlike other forms of energy (nuclear, natural gas, oil, hydroelectric), coal provides many jobs in removing coal from the earth, transporting it to the utility, burning it, and properly disposing of coal ash.
  • Coal can be mined and burned with little environmental impact.  There has been tremendous strides in environmental responsibility with mining coal and burning coal. 
  • Coal energy is an affordable energy source because of the coal’s stable price compared to other fuel sources
  • Coal is easy to burn
  • Coal produces high energy upon combustion. 

Improvements in the Efficiency of Coal based Power Plants

Supercritical and Ultra supercritical Technology

New pulverized coal combustion systems – utilizing supercritical and ultra-supercritical technology – operate at increasingly higher temperatures and pressures and therefore achieve higher efficiencies than conventional PCC units and significant CO2 reductions. Supercritical steam cycle technology has been used for decades and is becoming the system of choice for new commercial coal-fired plants in many countries.

Research and development is under way for ultra-supercritical units operating at even higher efficiencies, potentially up to around 50%. The introduction of ultra-supercritical technology has been driven over recent years in countries such as Denmark, Germany and Japan, in order to achieve improved plant efficiencies and reduce fuel costs.

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)

An alternative to achieving efficiency improvements in conventional pulverized coal-fired power stations is through the use of gasification technology. IGCC plants use a gasified to convert coal (or other carbon-based materials) to syngas, which drives a combined cycle turbine.

Fluidised Bed Combustion

Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC) is a very flexible method of electricity production – most combustible material can be burnt including coal, biomass and general waste. FBC systems improve the environmental impact of coal-based electricity, reducing SOx and NOx emissions by 90%.

Pulverized coal combustion systems

Producing electricity in coal power plants can take place in a number of ways with varying degrees of efficiency. In conventional coal-fired plants coal is first pulverized into a fine powder and then combusted at temperatures of between 13000C to 17000C. This Technology accounts for 97% of World Coal plants with more than 40 percent efficiency.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Furthermore, the use of CCS with renewable biomass is one of the few carbon abatement technologies used in a `carbon-negative` mode actually taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Way Forward-Opportunities and Hopes

  • New technologies with time eco-friendly mining could be possible even at greater depth.
  • Coal bed Methane
  • Underground Coal Gasification
  • Improvements in the efficiency of coal-fired power plants can be achieved with technologies 

Coal Bed Methane (CBM)

CBM is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. In recent decades it has become an important source of energy in United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries.

The term refers to methane adsorbed into the solid matrix of the coal. It is called `sweet gas` because of its lack of hydrogen sulfide. The presence of this gas is well known from its occurrence in underground coal mining, where it presents a serious safety risk. Coal bed methane is distinct from a typical sandstone or other conventional gas reservoir, as the methane is stored within the coal by a process called adsorption.

India’s Director General of Hydrocarbon has approved the drilling of more than 100 CBM wells that cover the next four years will involve total investment of $150 million. India’s CBM reserve estimated at 16 TCF.

Underground Coal Gasification

Underground coal gasification (UCG) is an industrial process which converts coal into product gas. UCG is an in-situ gasification process carried out in non-mined coal seams using injection of oxidants, and bringing the product gas to surface through production wells drilled from the surface.

Only in the case of the Soviet Union in the 1960s was UCG pushed forward into full production at a handful of plants in remote areas. Only one plant in Uzbekistan continues to operate. In the rest of the world sporadic attempts at testing of UCG over the last few decades have generally ended very badly. 24 UCG licenses approved around Britain Swansea Bay likely to be site of first tests.

Conclusion

Presently, innovations of new technologies and eco-friendly management of resources create opportunities to develop these earth resources in Bangladesh in win-win situation with the community for the betterment of the economy of the country as well as society through generation of direct and indirect employment

Coal is the cheapest and most abundant source of energy. Unlike with natural gas or oil, there is very little chance of coal being scarce as it is plentiful all over the world. Coal reserves are estimated to be around a million tons and is expected to be available for consumption for the next 200 years.

Because of its high reserve, low costs, coal can be the main primary energy source of Bangladesh towards energy security, countries like India, South Africa, China, Philippines.

Reshad Md. Ekram Ali, Director General of Geological Survey of Bangladesh

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