Warsaw — The Polish government has approved a lignite strategy to develop new deposits to replace current open-pit mines that will start to become exhausted by 2030, the energy ministry said late Monday.
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"Lignite resources in currently exploited deposits allow for the maintenance of a stable level of extraction and operation only until about 2030. Without the modernization of existing generating units and the development of new deposits, lignite-fired generation capacity in Poland will totally disappear in 2040-2045," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the main strategic objective of the program, which was approved by the government on May 30, is to create conditions conducive to the production of electricity from lignite based on innovative and effective technologies, including the use of coal in the production of liquid and gas fuels. The program will create a ranking of deposits that have the greatest potential for development and which will become subject to protection.
In 2017, lignite-fired capacity accounted for 51.983 TWh, or 30.7% of the total 168.852 TWh of electricity generated in Poland, up 1.5% year on year and second only to hard coal which accounted for roughly 50% of total generation.
Deputy energy minister Grzegorz Tobiszowski said late Monday the development of the Zloczew lignite deposit, which is located about 60 km away from the country's 5.3 GW lignite-fired Belchatow plant, is now a question of when, rather than if. He also said discussions are taking place about developing the Oscislowo deposit near the lignite-fired ZEPAK plant.
In May, Tobiszowski said the country's largest utility, PGE, could receive an extraction license for Zloczew by the end of this year. In March, PGE received a positive environmental decision for the investment, which allows it to apply for a production license.
Zloczew contains an estimated 600 million mt of lignite. A new rail link would need to be built to transport the fuel to the Belchatow plant, which has led some market participants to cast doubt on the viability of the project.
The lignite in Belchatow's existing open-pit mines, Belchatow and Szczerow, is expected to be exhausted in the period 2032-2040. PGE commissioned an 858 MW unit at Belchatow as recently as 2011 and the company has been considering options about extending the life of the plant.
Tobiszowski said late Monday that Poland was also looking at exploiting lignite for the development of new technologies.
"Since the program was adopted by the energy ministry, lignite sector representatives have begun a lot of activity. They're talking about the gasification of lignite and accelerating the use of new technologies. We're thinking about how to use it better, to transport it better and to use it more efficiently. I think the program is a stimulus for this sector, which next to hard coal has been a little forgotten, and now it is starting to have its own impulse. That's good because we have the deposits, we have the specialists and we have the demand," he said.