India seeks collaboration with SA on coal gasification technology

26th February 2013 By: Ajoy K Das - Creamer Media Correspondent

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.