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Coal gas can help lower import bill by $10 bn in 5 yrs: Coal Secretary

PTI | New Delhi |

Domestic coal gas can be used as a feedstock for producing urea and other chemicals that can help reduce the country's import bill by $10 billion in five years and cut carbon emissions, a top official said.

Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar also said that India's dependence on petroleum and natural gas can be reduced or done away with if the country is able to get gas from coal.

"If we are able to replace this import by indigenous coal gasification … it can safely be said that in next five years time, about $10 billion worth of import can be substituted. That's the mechanics which one has to really work on," the Coal Secretary told PTI in an interview.

"Our dependence on petroleum and natural gas will be reduced … We know that coal is there. That's the real issue and I want that as a Secretary I should steer the sector towards that," he said further.

The official said that imports of four-five chemicals like urea, methanol, ammonia and ascetic acid are worth around $5.5 billion, at present, he said.

If the country is able to gasify coal and use that for production of chemicals, including urea and methanol, it would lead to reduction in import bill manifold by 2030.

Underground coal gasification is a method of converting coal underground into gaseous mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and water that can be used in place of natural gas as fuel or feedstock.

"The problem with our coal use is when we burn coal for power generation our efficiency is only about 32-33 per cent. 100 (per cent) is possible but you get only 32-33 per cent. But you emit C02 by burning the entire quantity of coal," he said.

As far as the India's international commitment is concerned, the country should gradually reduce its emission intensity and for doing so India has to produce power which is non-coal, he said.

"So we will do renewable … Power will shift away from coal. But your overall energy security has to be provided by your own sources. Our predominant source is coal," the Secretary said.

The government is also planning to come up with a series of pilot projects in areas like coal gasification and coal-to-polychemicals next fiscal.

Once the projects are successful, government will push for commercial use of technology for utilisation of country's huge coal reserves.

"We want to do at least one (pilot) project on Underground Coal Gasification and not only on a project scale or 5-6 MW … Beyond that, we want commercial production also if it is possible," Kumar had earlier said.