Economy

Rains could play party spoiler for power sector

Shobha Roy / Richa Mishra Kolkata/Hyderabad | Updated on October 19, 2021

Drop in output from coal mines in eastern India

The worst is not over as yet for the power sector as there might be some temporary disruption in coal supplies with some of the mines of Coal India Ltd (CIL), particularly in eastern India, inundated due to unseasonal rainfall.

According to industry sources, incessant rain in many areas of Jharkhand and West Bengal over the last three days has impacted production and offtake of coal at the mines of Eastern Coalfields (ECL), Central Coalfields (CCL) and Bharat Coking Coal (BCCL) — all subsidiaries of CIL. However, dewatering exercise is on and the situation is expected to improve once the dry spell starts.

In the wake of depleting stocks at coal-fired power plants threatening a possible power outage, CIL had ramped up the average daily supplies to close to 1.62 million tonnes (mt) ahead of the festival season.

The average supply to power sector was close to 1.47 mt a day during the first fortnight of this month. This was further ramped up to 1.62 mt just before the Puja. However, production witnessed a marginal decline during the last two days of the Puja (Navami and Dussehra). This, coupled with unseasonal rains, has impacted production at mines, sources said.

Ramping up supplies

According to Coal Ministry officials, the target would be to ramp up supplies to power sector to 2 mt a day from all sources including CIL, Singareni Collieries Company (SCCL), captive coal mines and imported coal, starting Wednesday. Despite rains affecting ECL, BCCL, MCL, WCL and CCL mines, the total supplies to the power sector were 1.93 mt on Monday.

What is to be noted is that around 110 coal-fired thermal power plants in the country are having either critical or super critical stock levels as on October 17, as against only 14 plants which were in critical/super critical stock position (holding less than six days’ stock) during the year ago period. The average stock of coal in power plants is at about four days at present.

If the rain continues to play havoc, then the government may have to do another round of crisis management. “The situation has been improving and is expected to become better, moving forward. The average daily stock is expected to go up to around 10 mt by the end of this month, from the current 7.3 mt,” said an industry player.

Stock levels improve

However, the situation has marginally improved over the last one week compared to 115 plants having critical/super critical stock levels with a total stock of around 7.29 mt as on October 10 this year.

On an optimistic note, another industry official said the average coal stock position at the power plants is expected to improve to six-to-seven days by the end of this month. “The power sector seems to be slightly at ease now as supplies have improved. But any rain in coal producing area will affect production and supplies. However, once dry spells start it will start improving,” the official said.

 

Published on October 19, 2021

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