KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – With power demand poised to peak during the summer months and coal shortages at thermal power plant looming large, the Power Ministry is seeking a sharp rise in the availability of rakes for coal transportation from government-owned and -operated Indian Railways.
In the course of meetings between the Power and Railways Ministries, the former has sought that Indian Railways make available at least 500 rakes a day, as stock volumes are below stipulated levels at more than 50 thermal power plants across the country. The Power Ministry has said that the situation is likely to be aggravated as power demand rises along with the mercury in the summer months ahead.
As things stand now, these thermal power plants are carrying stocks less than ten days equivalent of coal consumption, categorised as ‘super critical’ against a norm of minimum 22 days equivalent consumption of stocks.
To ensure de-bottlenecking of logistical and transportation issues, Power Ministry officials will be posted at various government coal mining companies and ensure coordination between miners and government transporters, government officials says.
The officials add that the meeting noted that there had not been any improvements in coal availability at thermal power plants since disruptions of coal supplies during the monsoon season last year.
Currently, Coal India Limited (CIL) loads about 260 rakes a day for Indian Railways, while the balance are loaded by the other government miners, like Singareni Collieries, NLC and captive coal miners.
The Coal Ministry has set a production target of 630-million tons for CIL during the 2018/19 financial year, even though the miner is expected to miss the production target of 600-million tons during the current financial year, which ends on March 31.
At the same time, the Power Ministry has projected coal demand from thermal power plants at 603-million tons during 2018/19, of which CIL is expected to supply 513-million tons and Singareni Collieries and NLC the balance of 90-million tons.
To make this volume of dry fuel available in time at thermal power plants will require a sharp increase in the number of rakes made available by Indian Railways, the officials say.
However, besides shortages stemming from transportation issues, CIL has also missed monthly production targets for 11 consecutive months during the current financial year, officials point out, adding that the trend indicates possibilities of a sharp rise in Indian coal imports in the coming months.
During January, Indian coal imports have been estimated at 18.49-million tons, up 12.4% over January 2017. Total coal imports during April to January 2018 were estimated at 179.5-million tons, marginally lower than the 180-million tons during the corresponding previous period, but the trend was largely expected to be reversed in the next financial year, impacted by a combination of slow production growth and transportation bottlenecks, officials said.