Coal stocks at some private thermal power plants, which receive the fuel from Central Coalfield Ltd (CCL), have reached precarious levels as CCL is said to be supplying more fuel to NTPC power plants. According to industry sources, this is due to the shutdown of Dhanbad-Chandrapura railway line, which has compelled Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) to shift 8-10 rakes from its supply to CCL.
Underground fire at Jharia coal field and unsafe operations of the railway led to the shutdown of Dhanbad-Chandrapura railway line in December, 2016. The railways is working closely with the coal ministry and Coal India Ltd to minimise loss of loading on account of the closure of this line, senior railway officials said. “Out of the 10 BCCL sidings falling on this line, only 3 sidings are now functional and remaining 7 sidings have been closed. BCCL has organised transportation of coal (which was earlier loaded from these closed sidings) to other sidings,” Mohd Jamshed, member traffic, Railway Board, told. “The loss of loading which was 6-8 rakes per day immediately after closure of the line has now reduced to 4-5 rakes per day with increased coal transportation by BCCL from alternate sidings,” Jamshed added.
According to the latest government data, on August 18, private power plants which get coal supply from CCL, such as Adani’s 3,300 MW Tirora plant and Lanco’s 1,200 MW Anpara plant had fuel reserves for only one day and two days respectively. Reliance’s 1,200 MW Rosa plant had zero days of coal in stock.
On the other hand, NTPC power plants which source coal from CCL through railways, namely the 4,760 MW Vindhyachal plant, 3,000 MW Rihand plant and the 2,320 MW Mauda plant, had coal stocks for 17, 19 and 18 days respectively.
According to the official definition, power plants with reserves of less than four days are termed to have ‘super-critical’ reserve. This definition stands for non-pithead power plants, like the ones cited above, which get supply of coal through railways.
In order to ensure seamless transportation of coal from the mines to the plants, the government had announced many railway line projects in the CCL and Mahanadi Coalfields Limited areas; however none of them have been commissioned even after three years of such announcement, pointed out sources from the private power generation industry who did not want to be named.
In a letter to Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar, written earlier this calendar year, the Association of Power Producers noted that generators face difficulty in long-term production planning due to significant mismatch between the committed schedule and the actual delivery of coal.