BHUBANESWAR: Thermal coal imports through Paradip port improved by 50 per cent to six million tonnes during 2011-12. This comprised the lion’s share of the 16 million tonnes of import traffic handled by the port during the year.
The sharp jump in coal import through the port is attributed to higher demand for low-ash content coal, said port authorities.
“Thermal coal imports improved to 37 per cent of total imports in 2011-12, from 30 per cent of the 13 million tonne import traffic seen in 2010-11, due to increasing demand for low-ash content coal,” said Saroj Mishra, traffic manager of Paradip Port Trust.
Even though Orissa is the second largest coal producer in the country after Jharkhand with 25 per cent of country’s deposits, the high ash content in its coal makes it less viable to produce power. Local industrial houses, therefore, depend on low-ash imported coal found in Indonesia, South Africa and Australia to blend with the domestic coal for power generation.
However, industries with captive power generation capacities said higher import during a weaker rupee regimes indicate a problem in supply, and not demand.
“Our 2011-12 coal buying was certainly higher than the previous year as we had problems with supply from MCL (Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd),” said P R Choudhry, executive director of National Aluminum Company’s smelter facility at Angul.
MCL is mandated to supply 4.7 million tonne tonnes of thermal coal to Nalco every year, but its supplies were 360,000 tonne less in the last fiscal, forcing the aluminum producer to import more coal. It had placed an import order for 200,000 tonnes of coal in September after a fall in production, he added
Due to fuel supply problems, the company’s aluminum production declined by seven per cent in 2011-12 to 413,000 tonnes as power constitutes an integral part of aluminum making.
Similarly, ferro chrome producer and trader Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys resorted to coal imports last fiscal as it was yet to develop the coal block allotted to it. Costlier coal imports had affected the bottom line of the company in the third quarter and is expected to dent the Jan-Mar profits too, said trade sources.