Vietnam mulls importing U.S. coal for power generation

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam is considering importing coal from the United States to meet rising demand for the fuel for power generation, state media reported on Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian country plans to build more coal-fired power plants.

Vietnam is also seeking to import more U.S. goods to help narrow its trade surplus with the United States following threats by President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on its products amid the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Executives from state-run coal producer Vinacomin and Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy & Resources met last week in Hanoi to discuss the possibilities of shipping U.S. coal to Vietnam, reported state-run newspaper Dau Tu.

Vietnam has recently become a net coal importer, with most of its shipments coming from Australia and Indonesia.

Coal is expected to account for 42.6% of Vietnam’s power generating capacity by 2030, up from 38.1% currently, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Tuesday’s report provided no further details on the possible imports. It said Vinacomin, formally known as Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries Corp, annually produces about 40 million tonnes of coal from domestic mines.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said last week that Vietnam will contend with severe power shortages from 2021 as electricity demand outpaces construction of new power plants, adding that it will have to import 680 million tonnes of coal to feed its power plants during the 2016-2030 period..

In other moves to cut the trade surplus with the United States, Vietnam’s Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical said last month it will import 2 million to 3 million barrels of U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude in the second half of this year for its Dung Quat refinery.

Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States widened to $20.59 billion in the first half of this year, from $15.55 billion a year earlier, according to Vietnam’s customs data.

The Vietnamese government said in June its Ministry of Industry and Trade and the U.S. Department of Energy would soon sign a memorandum of understanding on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Vietnam does not have an LNG import terminal, but it is looking for partners to develop a liquid gas import business, also primarily for power generation.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Tom Hogue