India’s coal imports increased by 21% to 152 million t in 2013, as power producers bought more coal due to low prices and the country suffered a domestic shortage. The latest findings from research firm OreTeam also suggest that shipments could rise to 170 million t in 2014.
A number of bureaucratic, environmental and legal delays to adding new mines and expanding existing ones have pushed India into third place in the rankings of coal importers, behind China and Japan. This is despite the fact that the country has the world’s fifth largest coal reserve (ranked by BP Plc).
The majority of India’s imports come from Indonesia, South Africa, Australia and Canada. In 2012, the country imported a total of 126 million t of coal including thermal coal for power generations, coking coal for steelmaking and metallurgical coal.
"Rising thermal coal demand is the major reason behind India's surging imports," commented Prakash Duvvuri, head of research at OreTeam, which collects data from its representatives at ports, mining regions and companies.
Imports were similarly strengthened by weak coal prices. Benchmark thermal coal prices hit their lowest levels in almost four years in September, dropping below US$ 77/t, mainly thanks to oversupply in Australia, Indonesia and the United States. In the US, the shale oil and gas revolution has made more coal available. Although prices have recovered from September's low, currently they are not much higher than US$ 82/t.
India’s power consumption
India's thermal coal imports are expected to continue to rise as the country looks to increase its per-capita power consumption of approximately 778 kilowatt-hour (kWh), equivalent to approximately 30% of the global average of 2600 kWh.
The country's power generation is expected to rise 7% to 975 billion kWh this fiscal year ending 31st March 2014, most of which is powered by coal. The federal government has also approved a number of power projects that will add to the demand.
India’s Coal Ministry explained that domestic output could fall short of demand by 155 million t this fiscal year. This could lead to a 13% increase in imports for the year ending 31st March, from 137.56 million t in the year earlier.
Goldman Sachs said earlier this week that the global demand for thermal coal will rise 2.75% each year between 2014 and 2017, driven by Japan, South Korea and emerging markets such as India.
Edited from various sources by Katie Woodward
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