India to Free Up 1.77 lakh tonnes of coal

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Stopping coal supplies for a week to plants having more than 15 days stock will free up around 1.77 lakh tonne of fossil fuel, to be redistributed to India’s plants having low stocks, the union power ministry said on Sunday. 

This is part of an attempt to ensure coal supplies at power generation plants across the country and assumes significance given that coal fuelled electricity generation remains the mainstay of India’ power mix. 

The coal stocks have depleted at thermal power plants due to reasons such as increase in demand for electricity and lower generation by hydropower plants. In a reflection of revival of economic activity in the country, India’s peak electricity demand recorded an all time high of 200.57 giga watt (GW) on 7 July. The demand is currently around 192-193 GW.

 “The regulation of the coal to the power plants having more than 15 days’ stock, would free up around 1.77 lakh tone of coal from 26 stations. This coal has been redistributed to the plants having super critical and critical coal stocks at power plants," power ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Also, coal production is being increased from captive mines of power projects to ease pressure on state run Coal India Ltd’ (CIL) mines. India’s power sector is the largest consumer of coal in the country, with CIL being the largest coal miner. Of India’s installed power generation capacity of 383.37 gigawatts (GW), the coal fuelled projects account for 53% or 202.67 GW.

 “Secretary, Union Ministry of Power, Shri Alok Kumar, today (29th August,2021) reviewed the report of the Core Management Team (CMT) which comprises of representatives from Ministry of Power (MOP), Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Coal India Limited (CIL) and Railways to ensure daily close monitoring of coal stock position at thermal power plants (TPPs)," the statement added.

This comes at a time of fuel demand increasing on account of a higher offtake from the power sector, with India’s electricity demand on an upward trajectory. In a reflection of growing demand, CIL registered a 28.4% growth in coal offtake for the first four months of the current financial year as compared to the corresponding period last fiscal.

Some of the measures to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply by easing out coal stocks inlcude; sourcing coal from captive coal mine of Odisha Coal & Power Limited (OCPL) for NTPC Ltd’s Daralipali project whose second 800 MW unit will start commercial operation from 1 September. Also, Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) would be clearing its Rs1200 crore dues to CIL’ subsidiaries in a week that will ramp up fuel supplies to its plants thereby taking their plant load factors (PLFs) up to 90% from the present level of 61%.

PLF is a measure of output of a power plant, with a higher PLF indicating more output at a lower cost.

According to the statement, the 1000 MW Kudankulam nuclear power station would come online before 2 September, thereby easing pressure on coal requirement.

 “Around 6000 MW capacity of thermal power plants at Western coast at Mundra designed on imported coal have around 30 days of coal stock and are not supplying power due to PPA related issues. A meeting is being taken tomorrow by Ministry of Power to resolve the issues, so that the power from these units can contribute to the overall generation to ease pressure on domestic coal requirements," the statement said. 

Of CIL’ coal production target of 670 million tonne (mt) for the current financial year, the demand from the power sector is expected to account for around 545 mt. India’s overall coal requirement is expected to go up to 1,123 mt by 2023 from the present level of 700 mt.

 “Nevyeli Lignite Corporation (NLC) India has confirmed that the Lignite production from its mines at Neyveli is going on very well and one 500 MW unit at Neyveli which was under shut down now shall be back in service from 1st Sept,2021 onwards and NLCIL will be ready to generate more than 90% of its capacity.  One more unit of 250 MW which is currently under annual overhauling will be ready to be synchronized by 10th of Sept 2021 after which all units will be available for generation achieving about 92% PLF," the statement added.

India’ thermal power projects’ operating performance is set to further improve with higher plant load factors (PLFs), according to analysts. This assumes significance that India’s coal-fuelled power projects were facing low-capacity utilization due to muted demand. 

 “NLC will increase the production of coal from its Talabira coal mines at ODISHA, which can be supplied to the willing Gencos. Similarly all captive coal mines of State & Central Gencos have been advised to ramp up their production to augment coal stocks at their end use plants," the statement added.

India has the world’s fourth largest reserves and is the second-largest producer of coal.

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