KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - Infrastructure for Indian coal pithead dispatches, a major bottleneck in meeting rising demand for domestic and imported coal, has shown a marginal increase in capacity, the Coal Ministry has reported.
In information placed before Parliament on Monday, junior Coal Minister Pratik Prakashbapu Patil said that in 2010/11, Indian Railways moved 239.12-million tons, or 45.68%, of total coal dispatches of 523.46-million tons. This was against 226.02-million tons, or 44%, of total dispatches of 513.79-million tons during 2009/10.
Actual mode-wise figures for 2011/12 were yet to be compiled, Patil said.
During 2010/11, 161.15-million tons, or 30.79%, of coal was moved along roadways, compared to 159.21-million tons, or 30.99%, in the previous year.
The target for coal production during the twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012/17) was still under discussion in India’s Planning Commission but according to coal major Coal India Limited (CIL), it could be set in the region of 800-million tons. During the current eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007/12), the coal production target had been set at 600-million tons but only 523-million tons was achieved in the final year.
Despite the predominance of railway infrastructure in coal movement across the country, Indian Railway, run by the government, moved a total freight equivalent of 970-million tons during 2011/12, recording growth of just 5%, indicating capacity constraints in accepting higher volumes of coal for transportation.
“There are serious deficiencies in coal evacuation infrastructure in the country and achieving higher production would not be sufficient to mitigate shortages at consumer’s sites, particularly at stockyards of thermal power plants,” a CIL official said.
It was against this backdrop that CIL has accorded top priority to building three crucial railway lines on its own to increase coal movement capacities.
The rail network would be put in place in three major coal-producing provinces, namely Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa with each running 100 km to link up pitheads with the existing Indian Railway network.
“If we are able to create the new rail network over the next two years, we can produce an additional 240-million tons of coal that would be required to add 60 000 MW of new power generating capacity,” CIL chairperson S Narsing Rao said.
He, however, cautioned that environmental issues like forest clearances pending for several years, could push back the project.
During 2012/17, the Indian government had planned the creation of additional power generating capacity of 100 000 MW of which 60% would be through thermal generation. It was estimated that 240-million tons of additional coal would be required to feed the 60 000 MW incremental power generating capacity.