China's railway ministry prioritises coal shipping

BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters) - China’s railway administration has pledged to prioritise thermal coal shipments to power plants in regions hit by power shortages, as part of efforts to help ease a supply crunch ahead of upcoming Chinese holidays.

The railway departments would immediately load and ship coal once they received requests, the Ministry of Railways said on Thursday in a report on its Web site (

As of January 22, coal stocks in 355 power plants that depend mostly on railways for supplies had dropped to 19.68 million tonnes, approaching the “caution level” of 18.9 million tonnes, just enough for 8.8 days of generation, the report said.

Coal stocks in power plants in Hubei, Guizhou, Zhejiang, Ningxia and Anhui provinces were insufficient for even three days of generation, and the number of plants with stockpiles below requirement for three days had risen to more than 60.

Coal shortages have forced China’s power plants to shut down more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generators, or nearly 4 percent of national thermal capacity, said the China Electric Power News, a newspaper controlled by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Brownouts had hit at least 13 provinces by this week, with the national power deficit reaching as high as some 70 GW, or the equivalent of most of Britain’s generating capacity, official media had reported.

Reporting by Jim Bai; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree