Kazakhstan is a country that is larger than the European Union in geographical terms but with a population of just 17.5 million people. Its major energy source is coal, which represents over 70% of its national mix and there are also oil and gas resources although these have only been partly assessed.
Earlier this year, I took part in an UNECE/UNDP mission to Kazakhstan to determine how best to tie in work on advanced coal technologies with the Kazakhstan Government’s Green Bridge Initiative. In early August, I had the privilege to return to Kazakhstan to participate in a national strategic discussion forum on how best to utilize coal in an economically and environmentally improved way. The forum was chaired by the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and was well attended by several ministers and various national experts on coal production and utilization, as well as the national press. I was the only person from outside of Kazakhstan and it was my role to provide a succinct global commentary on the role of coal and to highlight the various utilization routes and the various technology advances that have been made, especially in power generation.
Arising from the meeting, the Prime Minister has charged the Ministry of Energy to set up two strategic working groups, with one to look at short term issues associated with coal mining covering commercial issues (tariffs, trade deals, taxes) and technical issues (more effective extraction and subsequent transport). The other group will consider longer term issues as to how best to exploit the massive coal resource within the country, taking into account practical issues such as infrastructure needs, investment requirements, scope/need for international cooperation while also considering COP21 requirements. Both are expected to report later this year, the short term group during September and the longer term group during November. The Prime Minister encouraged both groups to introduce international experts into the discussions so I hope that I might be involved in the longer term considerations.