Coal gas to help reduce import bill by $10 bn in 5 years

Domestic coal gas can be used to produce urea and other chemicals.

The Dollar Business Bureau

The government can encourage the use of domestic coal gas to produce urea and other chemicals in order to cut down on its imports bill by as much as $10 billion over the next five years.

Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar said the imports of petroleum and natural gas can be slashed if we are able to produce 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," Kumar 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. 

India’s imports of chemicals such as ammonia, ascetic acid, methanol and urea are worth about $5.5 billion. If the usage of coal to convert gas is encouraged across the country, there will be a multifold reduction in imports of these chemicals by 2030. 

The indigenous coal gasification will not only reduce the emission intensity but would also lessen the adverse environmental impact, he said.

Coal gasification is used to converting coal into gaseous mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen and water, and can be replaced by 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%. 100% is possible but you get only 32-33%. But you emit C02 by burning the entire quantity of coal," the Secretary said.

"So for each such incremental use, your emission intensity goes on deteriorating. More coal you use the more becomes the emission intensity. 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," he said. 

Kumar said the government is considering an underground coal gasification project on a scale of 5-6 MW. 

India’s coal imports have dropped by almost 25% in 2016. Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said the government aims to totally eliminate coal imports in the next few years.