Massive blackout likely if supplies are disrupted even for a day

Nearly 46,400 MW of indigenous coal-based power plants are running with just up to three days of fuel stock.

This may lead to a risk of complete shut down of power stations and blackout if there is a disruption of coal supply even for a day.

According to the Central Electricity Authority, as on November 7 almost 35 power plants are at super critical stage. An electricity generating station is considered super critical if it has less than four days of fuel stock.

Out of the 90 indigenous coal-based power plants, 52 are critical indicating that they have less than seven days of fuel supplies, sources said.

The worst hit is Maharashtra where out of 10 power plants, only one has eight days’ stock and remaining have just up to three days.

During the same period last year, 49 stations were critical. Out of this, 38 were at super critical stage. The normative stock required in a power station is 22 days.

Despite coal supplies becoming stable and generally moving northwards after the monsoon, the number of critical stations has increased in November as against October. On October 7, 47 stations were critical and of these, 32 were super critical.

“The demand is more than supply. Currently, coal supply situation in the country is hand-to-mouth. Even stations at pitheads do not have stock,” said a CEA official.

Several pit head projects such as Lanco’s 1,000 MW Anpara, NTPC’s 2,980 MW Sipat, 3,760 MW Vidhyachal and 2,100 MW Farakka stations do not have even a single day’s stock.

The mine attached to Lanco’s Anpara project is yet to start production and the unit is getting coal from alternative sources. The mine is to be developed by Northern Coal Fields.

On the other hand, NTPC pithead units have always been running on negligible stocks. The reason is demand and supplies are at same level.

The critical fuel supply scenario continues even when Coal India is reporting eight per cent increase in its offtake.

Coal India supplied 13.1 per cent more coal (75.09 million tonnes) to power utilities during the second quarter of the current fiscal against 66.39 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year.

Coal India’s supply to NTPC has increased 22.5 per cent at 29.24 million tonnes during July-September 2012 against 23.88 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year.

siddhartha.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 12, 2012)
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