| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Jan 22 India's coal imports rose 21
percent to 152 million tonnes last year as power producers
bought more due to low prices and a domestic shortage, research
firm OreTeam said, adding that shipments could rise to 170
million tonnes this year.
Bureaucratic, environmental and legal delays in adding new
mines and expanding existing ones have made India the No. 3
importer of coal, behind China and Japan, even though it sits on
what BP Plc ranks as the world's fifth-largest reserves.
Most of the imports come from Indonesia, South Africa,
Australia and Canada. India shipped in a total of 126 million
tonnes of power-generating thermal coal, steelmaking coking coal
and processed coking coal, or metallurgical coal, in 2012.
"Rising thermal coal demand is the major reason behind
India's surging imports," said Prakash Duvvuri, head of research
at OreTeam, which collects data from its representatives at
ports, mining regions and companies.
The data is not yet publicly available.
The imports were also helped by weak prices. Benchmark
thermal coal prices hit their lowest levels in almost four years
in September, dropping below $77 a tonne mainly due to
oversupply in Australia, Indonesia and the United States.
In the United states, the shale oil and gas revolution has
made more coal available.
Prices have recovered from September's deep trough, but are
still not much higher than $82 a tonne.
India's thermal coal imports are expected to continue to
rise in coming years as it races to increase its per-capita
power consumption of about 778 kilowatt-hour (kWh), equivalent
to about 30 percent of the global average of 2,600 kWh.
The country's power generation is expected to rise 7 percent
to 975 billion kWh this fiscal year ending March 31, with most
of that powered by coal. The federal government has also
approved many power projects that would add to the demand.
Though the government does not regularly release data on
coal imports, the Coal Ministry has said domestic output could
fall short of demand by 155 million tonnes this fiscal year.
That could lead to a 13 percent rise in imports for the year
ending March 31 from 137.56 million tonnes in the year earlier.
More than 80 percent of India's coal production comes from
state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL), which has fallen short
of its production target for at least the past six years due to
difficulties in obtaining environmental approvals, lack of
railway access and other issues.
Its April-December output of 319.2 million tonnes was 4
percent less than its target for the period.
CIL, the world's largest coal mining company, estimates a
shortage of 350 million tonnes for 2016-17.
Indonesia would likely be the biggest beneficiary of that
shortfall; it already accounts for more than 50 percent of
India's coal imports.
Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday that global demand for thermal
coal will rise 2.75 percent a year between 2014 and 2017, driven
by Japan, South Korea and emerging markets such as India.
(Editing by Tom Hogue)