Nigeria’s burgeoning plan to launch a pilot project that will use the nation’s coal deposits of 2.7 billion tones to generate electricity is gathering more momentum even as Mining and Solid Minerals Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has revealed that the first stage of the project which would likely be located in Kogi state could supply 600 megawatts of electricity in about 13 months.
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According to the minister, “it could be a substantial contribution, not just the pilot project but also the whole schedule of projects that would fall into place. The first project is hopeful that once they kick off, over a period of 72 months, they can ramp up output of up to 3,600 megawatts, although as minister, I am much more conservative.”
Currently, Nigeria’s generation capacity is put at about 4,500 megawatts while actual generation hovers around 2000 due to transmission and distribution bottlenecks.
Dr. Rilwan Babalola, minister of power, had in a chat with newsmen recently said that given the challenges encountered in getting natural gas from producers in the Niger Delta to fire thermal plants, the government was left with no other option than to exploit the coal deposits in the country for the purpose of electricity generation. “We are diversifying into coal and we are very serious about it this time because of the challenges in getting gas to fire the thermal plants”, Babalola said.
Power generation in Nigeria over the last 40 years has varied from gas-fired, oil-fired, hydro-electric power stations to coal-fired stations with hydroelectric power system and gas-fired system taking precedence.
Nigeria has significant coal resources that have been estimated at 2.7 billion metric tons of which 650 million tons are proven reserves. About 95 percent of the nation’s coal is consumed locally, mainly for railway transportation, electricity production and industrial heating in cement production.
Industry experts say the country’s coal deposits are best suited for coal-fired electric power plants because of its low sulphur and ash content, and low thermoplastic properties.
Nigeria, battling with power outages and low generation capacity plans to raise generation to 6,000 megawatts by end of 2009 and 10,000 megawatts by 2011.
Coal, the mineral that stoked the Industrial revolution back in the 19th century, remains the most globally abundant fossil fuel, with an estimated 250 years of reserves. Experts say coal could power china and India to global economic leadership, replace imported natural gas in the United States and slash Europe’s dependence on foreign oil. But used the old-fashioned way, experts warn, coal will shroud planet Earth in enough carbon dioxide to trigger polar meltdowns in this lifetime.
Today, all but a handful of the thousands of coal-fired power plants in operation worldwide are smog-belching dinosaurs. The largest generate as much smog a year as 2 million cars; for every ton of fuel they burn, two tons of carbon dioxide plume skyward out the smokestack, experts say. Today, coal accounts for as much as a third of all man-made greenhouse gases – the largest single contributor. Hundreds of additional coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built by2030-most in China, India and United states.
Thankfully, a lot of progress has been made in developing coal-fired plants that do not belch out tons of green house gases.