Coal supply to power units only: CIL
Coal India has temporarily curtailed fuel supply to non-regulated sectors such as aluminum and cement in a bid to prioritise supply to fuel starved thermal power plants with a low coal stock.
The move from the public sector miner comes at a time 112 thermal power plants had critical fuel stocks as on October 13, 2021 as per data from the Central Electricity Authority. The stock at 135 plants monitored by the CEA stood at 7.42 million tonnes or a stock of 4 days only. This is against a normative stock requirement of 22 days.
Coal India officials told The Telegraph that the measure is temporary and supply through auctions will be scaled up as soon as the coal stock situation at power plants stabilises. Non power consumers however were peeved at the decision and have urged the coal miner to resume supply at the earliest.
“This is only a temporary prioritisation in the interest of the nation, to tide over the low coal stock situation at stressed power plants and scale up supplies to them. It does not mean stoppage of e-auction format,” said a Coal India official.
The public sector miner, which supplies the majority of the coal consumed in India, said production and offtake has been steadily increasing. “For the past four days, supplies to the power sector are consistently at 1.61mt per day. Once the situation stabilises and stock at coal fired plants attains a comfort level, other sectors will be brought back to their regular supply norm,” the official said.
“Non regulated sector, particularly MSME consumers who do not have the financial and operational means to import has to depend on the auction windows of Coal India and is always worse off whenever there is demand-supply crunch in the power sector,” said a city-based coal trader.
Industry body Aluminum Association of India has already written to Coal India to resume supply as the recent decision to stop supplies and rakes for the non-power sector was detrimental for the industry and would jeopardise sustainability as these continuous process based plants were not designed for ad hoc shut down and start of operations.
Coal India officials, however, said had the power utilities stocked up coal from October till February 2021 the stock position would have been better.
Supply to non power sectors during the first six months of the ongoing fiscal was a little over 62mt and grew by 10 per cent over same period last year and 11 per cent over the same period in 2019, when there was no Covid pandemic.
Union coal minister Pralhad Joshi on Thursday reviewed coal production and offtake of Coal India subsidiaries Central Coalfields and Bharat Coking Coalfields. He gave out directions to ensure sustained coal production and dispatch to the power plants.