January 25, 2011 / 7:23 AM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Gladstone coal exports up to nearly 50 pct capacity this week

* Gladstone to ship out 500,000 tonnes coal this week

* QR National coal haulage lines operating at 55 pct capacity

* Rollenston mine rail spur could be out for up to 3 months (Changes headline adds details, recasts, adds analyst comments)

By Rebekah Kebede

PERTH, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Australia’s Gladstone Ports Corporation said on Tuesday it will export 500,000 tonnes of coal this week, nearly half of its usual capacity, after weeks of operating well below capacity due to flooding in Queensland.

“By the end of next week we expect our stockpile to be over the million tonne mark and increasing,” Leo Zussino, Gladstone Ports’ Chief Executive said.

The port, the third-largest coal port in Australia, has been operating at reduced levels for weeks as flooding hit northeastern Queensland state.

Queensland’s coal export ports have been operating well below capacity so far this year as the impact of flooding in Australia’s biggest coal-producing state takes its toll.

“We forecast that the ports are operating at 55 percent, down from 85 percent in 2010,” Australia and New Zealand Bank analyst Mark Pervan said in a client note on Tuesday.

A three-month period at those reduced rates would result in an 18.5 million tonne drop in export volumes-- 6 million tonnes thermal coal and 12.5 million tonnes coking coal.

Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, Queensland largest coal terminal, said on Tuesday week that it is operating at about 70 percent of normal capacity to date this year.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coking coal, used for steelmaking, and the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal after Indonesia. Utilities use thermal coal for power generation.

Disruptions in rail transport from inland mines to ports have played a major role in reducing exports.

Australian coal freight operator QR National re-opened all its coal haulage lines as of last week, but is still at reduced capacity, with ANZ estimating QR National’s coal rails are operating at 55 percent of capacity.

The company’s Goonyella system, which rails coal into Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal is operating at 60 percent, while the Blackwater and Moura, which both transport coal into Gladstone Port, are operating at 40 percent capacity, ANZ said.

The rail line into Xstrata’s Rolleston could be out for up to three months due to the impact from heavy washouts and landslides, according to ANZ.

QR National said Tuesday it does not have an estimate for when the line into Rolleston will re-open. (Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by Ed Davies and James Regan)

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