Russia’s interest to help in Pak energy sector | By Syed Qamar Rizvi


Russia’s interest to help in Pak energy sector

IN recent months, Russia has assured Pakistan to virtually cooperate with its energy producing sector. Noteworthy, Russia has shown its prompt intentions to enhance Pakistan’s hydropower potential– by playing a role in its mega hydro-power projects — Diamer, Bhasha and Dasu. Reportedly, Moscow has shown interest in the Dasu stage-II hydro-power project of 2160 MW. Arguably, straddling the Indus Basin, Pakistan’s hydropower profile is endowed with considerable water resources. According to Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), there is 60,000 MW of hydropower potential in the country, of which only 7,320 MW has been developed. To counter its growing energy challenges, Pakistan is committed to enhancing the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Being a growing economy, Pakistan has an increasing electricity demand, which cannot be fulfilled from its current power producing capacity. The reported electricity shortfall during peak load hours is more than 5000 MW. Consequently, load shedding has become an unavoidable fate for the people of Pakistan.

Hydropower is a cheap, clean and renewable source of electricity. The conventional fossil fuel-based power plants only have an efficiency of 50%, while the efficiency of modern hydropower plants is about 85%. Moreover, depending on the head and water flow rate, hydropower can be harnessed both on a large and small scale for power generation purposes. Therefore, hydropower is the most significant RER in the world. Needless to say, Pakistan is facing an energy crisis mainly due to insufficient addition of electricity in the power system. Rapid industrialization, population growth, and a high rate of urbanization represent some of the contributing factors to the energy dilemma.

Moreover, peaceful use of nuclear energy remains the core objective of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Currently, the IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Pakistan (February 15-16). Pakistan currently operates six nuclear power reactors at two sites that generate about 10 per cent of the country’s total and almost a quarter of its low-carbon electricity. During his trip, Mr Grossi visited one of those sites, Chashma Nuclear Power Plant (CNPGS), 250 kilometres south of Islamabad. Inaugurating the site’s new spent fuel dry storage facility, Mr Grossi highly praised the safety and security of nuclear sites in Pakistan and encouraged the growing capacity of Pakistan’s hydropower.

Moreover, peaceful use of nuclear energy remains one of the core objectives of Pakistan nuclear programme. As Russia is poised for enhancing its energy cooperation with Pakistan, the Russians have requested information on the projects under consideration for development under the Government-to-Government (GtG) mode, which includes: (i) The Thakot 1, 2 & 3 Hydro-power projects (ii) the Kari-Mashkur hydro-power project (495 MW) and the Shogo-Sin hydro-power project (495 MW) (132 MW) Overhead Transmission Line from Drosh (Chitral) to Chakdara, with two 500 KV grid stations at both ends (v) Pafian hydro-power project (2400 MW).

Reportedly, “Pakistan has also shared the most recent information and plans for the modernization and construction of local and Thar coal-based new units at Jamshoro and Lakhra, including the proposed project financing scheme with Russia.”Russia has also informed Pakistan of LLC’s interest in constructing facilities for a gas transmission network and distributed power generation, rebuilding obsolete power-generating equipment with the supply of units based on gas turbine drives manufactured by LLC enterprises, and supporting its performance throughout its life cycle. Nevertheless, hydropower is poised for a resurgence and will play a significant role in addressing this power deficit, with some studies estimating the proportion of hydropower in the total electricity generation to increase to more than 40 per cent by 2030.

Additionally, numerous projects are currently under planning and construction in the private sector, overseen by the Private Power & Infrastructure Board, including Karot (720 MW), Suki (870 MW) and Kohala (1,124 MW). These projects are part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a collection of infrastructure projects supported by the Chinese Government to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and enhance the economic connectivity between both countries.In response to Russia’s growing interest towards assistance in the construction of the projects, Pakistan is positively hopeful that the stage II of the Dasu project will begin no earlier than 2026.The Russians are also interested in grid facilities, and Pakistan has asked for assistance in developing supervisory control and data acquisition systems and distribution system automation(SCADA).

Pakistan and Russia signed two agreements — in 2015 and 2021– for the construction of the $2.5 billion pipeline, which was slated to begin last year, but it could not be started due to global sanctions on Moscow. Pakistan has been grappling with increasing energy requirements, mainly oil and gas, together with an inflating current account deficit because of oil payments.The energy crisis has affected the country’s gross domestic product, paralyzed production and caused the social life of citizens to suffer. The energy shortage has also contributed to unemployment due to the closure of factories. Now, the energy crisis has become a national security issue in Pakistan.

Moreover, during the recently-held Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) meetings, both Russia and Pakistan expressed interest in maintaining contact to explore opportunities and prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation in the oil and gas sectors of Pakistan and third countries, including the implementation of projects for the introduction and use of cutting-edge Russian technologies to improve oil and gas recovery in Pakistani fields and the implementation of infrastructure projects. The joint statement said, ‘’Both sides have agreed to work on a comprehensive plan for energy cooperation which will form the foundation for future work and it is to be finalized in 2023’’.

Moscow has also offered to supply the electro-mechanical equipment for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project (4500 MW; comprising 12 units of 375 MW capacity each). Russian help seems inevitable as currently Pakistan has a gas shortfall of 1.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) which would double by 2025. Authorities estimated that domestic gas supplies would drop from 3.51 bcfd in 2019 to 1.67 bcfd in 2028, necessitating an increase in LNG imports to meet demand. The country began importing LNG in 2015 to mitigate growth in consumption and to reduce oil import. Notably, in the past, the growth and development of Pakistan suffered from energy side bottlenecks. Fossil fuel-based resources, including oil and natural gas, dominate the power sector of Pakistan, but the country possesses minimal indigenous fossil fuel reserves. This is what forms the basis of Russia-Pakistan energy cooperation, which may be an energy milestone in tandem with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).