By Sara Aggour
A ministerial committee has been formed to discuss the possibility of replacing natural gas in the Egypt’s industrial sector with coal.
The committee includes figures from the ministries of industry, petroleum, transportation, electricity and state of environmental affairs, according to a statement by the Minister of Industry on Monday.
The aim of the committee is to study how coal can be used as an energy supplement to meet the needs of the industrial plants such as producers of electricity and cement, which have significantly suffered the consequences of the recent wave of fuel shortages.
The committee’s conception was a result of a joint meeting between Egyptian ministers two weeks ago, established to explore the technical requirements and regulations that would be enforced in the case of Egypt pursuing coal energy.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Yasser Gaber, stressed that the project is still under review. “The first meeting for this committee will be held next week and the final decision of whether or not Egypt will go through with the project can take up to one month,” he said.
“When the committee agrees on the aspects [of using coal], the Minister of Industry will be required to review and approve [the committee’s decisions].”
In its statement, the Industry Ministry also confirmed its delay to provide seven new cement factories with the licences they require to operate.
“The addition of new factories may put a burden on the already functioning facilities,” said Yehia Latif, public relations head for the Industry Ministry.
“We are trying to provide new energy means that will help reduce pressure on older facilities and help establish new ones.”
Mohamed Al-Sukari, an oil expert and researcher at the Egyptian Petroleum Institute, believes coal can be a successful substitute for natural gas. However, he said, regulations must be in place to guarantee that environmental damages are minimised.
“Cement facilities can rely on coal as an energy source, but it’s important to consider the environmental aspects of the issue and set the necessary regulation for its protection,” he said.
During the joint meeting between the ministers, Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Hatem Saleh announced his ministry’s intention to explore energy alternatives to supplement natural gas shortages experienced within the industrial sector.
According to the ministry’s official statement on their website, cement plants consume around 20% of the total energy resources within the sector.