Coal stocks at India power plants begin to decline: CEA

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Thermal coal stockpiles at Indian power plants began to decline over the last week, although they remained markedly higher than the year-ago period, according to data released Monday by the Central Electricity Authority.

Data available with the Central Electricity Authority showed that 23 of the 114 plants had low coal stocks, much higher than just three a year ago. This was the case despite Coal India posting the highest increase in a month in four years. 

Coal stocks at power plants continue to be low at a fifth of the monitored power plants, giving an opportunity to gas-based projects to operate.

Stocks were measured at 30.979 million mt last week, down 1.3 per cent on the week and 2.7 per cent on the month, but up 105% from the year-ago period, the data showed. The slight declines were largely expected as stockpiles historically peak around late March-April, when utilities build stocks in advance of the wet season.

The large increase on a year-ago basis could partially be explained by increased imports of thermal coal – stockpiles of which hit a two-year high last week of 1.343 million tonnes – as well as significantly higher production and dispatch from state-owned producer Coal India.

The number of plants with critical or super-critical stock levels was just one, down significantly from 23 a year earlier, and coal stocks across the country were enough for 17 days generation, up from just nine a year earlier, said Platts in a statement.

CEA data showed that capacity utilisation of gas-based plants improved to 25% in September from 22% in the previous month. Hydro-generation in September was 17% lower than targets and nuclear 24%.

Coal stocks have dropped as the country ramped up coal-based generation to meet the deficit arising out of low generation from hydro, nuclear and renewable power plants. Irrigational demand and warmer weather conditions have also led to higher power demand. Power companies had earlier not maintained adequate coal stocks since they did not anticipate the deficit arising out of lesser power supply from other sources, government officials said. 

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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