India's coal imports surge in Sept on weak prices, low stocks

Reuters NEW DELHI | Updated on October 07, 2014 Published on October 07, 2014

India's coal imports surged 19 per cent to 16 million tonnes in September from a year ago as fuel-hungry power companies bought at lower international prices to bring in much-needed supplies, according to preliminary data from online trader mjunction.

More than half of India's power plants had only enough coal to run uninterrupted for less than a week as of Sept. 29 due to lower output from state-owned Coal India - the worst stock level since a crippling blackout in 2012.

Stocks have also been drawn down because New Delhi has asked coal-fired plants to produce more electricity as hydropower has dropped in the past three months because of weak monsoon rains.

"Imports rose mainly due to continued softness in international coal prices, coming up of new plants and slightly lower availability of domestic coal," said Viresh Oberoi, chief executive of mjunction, a joint venture of Tata steel and the Steel Authority of India Ltd.

The average price of coal from Indonesia and South Africa fell 6-9 per cent in September from a year earlier, Oberoi said.

India's inbound shipments of thermal coal, used mainly to generate power, rose to 12.95 million tonnes last month from 10.05 million a year earlier.

Imports of coking coal, used in making steel, fell slightly to 2.53 million, said mjunction, whose data is based on the monitoring of vessel positions and figures from shipping firms.

Total coal shipments were 16.12 million tonnes in August, mjunction said. The Indian government does not regularly release coal import data.

The inability of Coal India - accounting for 80 per cent of the country's coal output - to raise production fast enough to keep up with demand has made India the third-largest coal importer despite sitting on the fifth-largest reserves.

Published on October 07, 2014
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