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Tajikistan and Egypt want coal, while China is to limit its use

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World Cement,

Tajikistan’s Energy and Industry Minister met with BeijengJichuangDiansheng last week to discuss a new project to switch Tajikcement from natural gas to coal. Gul Sherali, the Energy and Industry Minister, said that the fuel switch would improve the cement producer’s performance as natural gas supplies have been much a challenge since Uzbekistan suspended supplies to Tajikistan at the beginning of the year. In the first seven months of this year, production at the plant reached just 29 000 t compared to 146 000 t in the same period of the previous year, due to production stoppages.

Likewise, in Egypt, the chairman of the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority has urged the government to reopen coal mines to provide fuel in the face of a natural gas shortage. The government coal mining project has been temporarily halted due to huge debts and a lack of infrastructure for exports, which would make the industry a more viable prospect. The project in question is capable of producing more than 6000 tpd and 160 000 tpa, which would be a great help to the cement industry, which has been struggling with inadequate fuel/power supplies. Reports indicated that the Managing Director of the Misr Beni Suef Cement company has asked the Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade to approve the use of coal as an alternative to natural gas for cement plants. Such a decision would need to be approved by the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, but the import of cement would also require further development to ports, which do not currently have the capacity to import and store the necessary volumes of coal.

Meanwhile, in China, the government has announced plans to curb air pollution by – among other measures – limiting the use of coal. Air quality has been a hot topic in recent months, since smog in Beijing earlier this year became so toxic that residents were encouraged to stay indoors. The new plan calls for an upgrade to China’s ‘coal-dependent industries’. Concentrations of particulate matter are to be reduced across the country, with harsher limits in some cities than others. Beijing, for example must reduced concentrations of fine particulate matter by 25%, while in the Pearl River Delta area the reduction is only 15%. Even so, the new average concentration level for PM2.5 in Beijing is set at 60 micrograms per cubic metre – two and a half times the recommended exposure limit specified by the World Health Organisation.

The new limits on coal are not overly stringent. Last year, coal accounted for 67% of energy use. Under the new plan, this will be cut to 65% by 2017.

“Instead of setting a goal to reduce burning for each province, the action plan gives each province the power to set goals for themselves, which leads to the goals being very conservative,” Huang Wei from Greenpeace East Asia told The New York Times. As the cement industry is already in a phase of upgrade and modernisation, it will be interesting to see whether the new plan will have any impact.

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