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A new hope

World Coal,

The 33rd Coaltrans Berlin world coal conference took place from the 20th – 22nd October at the Estrel Hotel & Convention Center, Berlin, Germany.  Over 1400 senior coal industry players met to discuss and share in valuable discussion on international coal market trade, regulation and developments.

With a programme, featuring talks from over 60 speakers, the conference promised to provide valuable insight for all those in attendance.

Reasons for optimism

In a market suffering from the effects of excess supply, many speakers saw through the current gloom of depressed coal prices toward a promising future for coal in the global energy and steel markets.

Henry Hely Hutchinson, managing director of Coaltrans Conferences, set the ball rolling with his opening remarks on the global coal industry. He said it was “encouraging to see modest recovery in the coal industry over the last few weeks,” and drew attention to the fact that in the UK, coal has now overtaken natural gas as energy source of choice. While coal made up 30% of the UK energy mix in 2011, in 2012 this figure increased to 42.8%.

While Hutchinson decried the decision of some coal producers to continue to produce coal despite the over supply in the market, he saw no reason for industry professionals to be despondent. He suggested that the world wide coal demand was expected to grow for the foreseeable future, despite competition from shale gas in the US, Nuclear energy in the UK and the attempts by countries across the globe to minimise CO2, SOx, NOx and other emissions and particulates.

While Hutchinson identified China and India as being key to the future success of the global coal industry, he still saw “plenty of energy and dynamism in Europe’s coal industry.”

Hutchinson’s remarks set the tone for the rest of the conference as one in which speakers would identify challenges that are both currently facing the industry, and also likely to effect the industry in the future, while also identifying reasons for optimism.

World Coal will run a series of articles and reports from the Coaltrans conference, looking at both these present and future challenges, as well as causes for hope and faith in an industry on which the world has relied – and will no doubt continue to rely – for many years.

Whatever is to become of coal, however, will depend on the way the industry engages with new and emerging clean coal technology. In his closing remarks, Hutchinson reminded the conference: “The success of clean coal and CCS will determine the future of the coal industry and the health of the planet.” It is not a reminder the coal industry should forget.

Written by Sam Dodson

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