As many as 32 power plants out of 114 in India have coal stockpiles that will last for seven days or less, a situation not seen in several months, as generating stations unexpectedly stepped up capacity utilisation following a rise in demand for electricity.
The 32 plants, with an installed capacity of 36,852 MW, account for 26% of generation capacities that get coal from state-owned Coal India and Singareni Collieries. The two entities together supply coal to plants with 140 GW of generation capacity in the country through long-term contracts.
Of the 32 stations, 22 plants have coal stocks that will last for four days or less, according to data released by the Central Electricity Authority. Ten plants have coal inventories that are enough for less than seven days. The average coal stock availability for all plants was 10 days. During the same time last year, only nine plants had critical or super critical stocks and the average stock levels were adequate for 16 days.
According to CEA's data, the number of plants with critical stocks hovered at about 20 in February and increased gradually to 32 last week, the highest level in recent times. According to Coal India executives, several factors resulted in the current situation. Some 8,000 MW of imported coal-based generation capacity shut down late last year because their tariffs were not remunerative enough and their customers shifted to plants that run on domestic coal, the executives said.
"Operational plants are witnessing increased capacity utilisation and in turn have been consuming more coal than they were originally expected to," an official said. "This, coupled with a moderate rise in demand, has resulted in a situation where stocks at plants have started to deplete, although Coal India has been loading at least 250 rakes a day, one of the highest in recent times."
CEA's data indicate that capacity utilisation at several plants has crossed 80% and in some cases, touched 90%. Coal despatch is about 11% more than last year.
In fact, we are supplying more than what we are producing and are eating into pithead stocks, which were at about 56 million tonnes towards the beginning of the financial year." the official said.
(Writing by Becky Du Editing by Tammy Yang)
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