Shrinking Coal Reserves and increasing power demand – Coal hungry power plants in India

Posted on October 25, 2011 by

Coal is referred as the black gold due to its multi uses in energy industry. Coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity and heat through combustion. Physically Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. Coal is the dirtiest form of fossil fuel we use, but it’s also the most readily usable fuel that we still have in relative abundance. It is a myth that globally there is an abundance of coal which allows for increasing coal consumption far into the future. The fact is quite different that, the world’s coal reserves are diminishing rapidly due to the over exploitation. Coal is cheap, easily available and also easy to use and these are the big reasons behind its every growing use.

Largest coal producers in the world are (in descending order): China, USA , Australia, India, South Africa, and Russia. These countries account for over 80% of the global coal production. (Source: World Coal Association)

Largest coal consumers;

Top Ten Coal Consumers (2010); (Source: World Coal Association)


Coal Consumption

PR China 2516Mtce
USA 733Mtce
India 434Mtce
Russia 177Mtce
Japan 165Mtce
South Africa 141Mtce
Germany 105Mtce
Korea 103Mtce
Poland 87Mtce

Coal and Power

Nearly 63% of the India’s total energy requirements are met from coal. The available coal reserves in India are sufficient to meet our needs for at least another 100 years. As per the Center for Strategic & International Studies;

Coal use for electricity generation is projected to grow 2% every year, almost doubling its share of India’s generating capacity by 2030. This will increase not only domestic production but also imports. Over the next two decades, coal imports are projected to triple compared with the 2007 level.

But the Ministry of Coal has different estimates – Press Information Bureau on 29th Aug 2011 released a news stating that the Minister of State in the Ministry of Coal, Shri Pratik Prakashbapu Patil gave written information to the Rajyasabha that the Coal India Limited has offered to supply 447 million tonnes of coal to Power Utilities in 2011-12 subject to the availability of wagons by the Railways at an average of 190.4 rakes per day during the year. This information further states that the coal stock with Power Stations has increased from 11.517 million tonnes at the end of July 2010 to 13.164 million tonnes at the end of July 2011.

All the above numbers shows variations but the current situation is not that good. India is experiencing large power shortage. Power shedding is often phenomenon and it affects the productivity.

As per The Economic Times (Oct 17, 2011), India’s power sector could see “tougher times ahead” due to depleting inventory of key raw material coal, forcing several power stations to operate at extremely low stock levels. As many as 29 power stations, of the 86 coal-based power projects in India, are currently operating with less than 4 days coal stock and 44 with less than 7 days stock.

Let’s hope a better power efficient tomorrow.

Posted in: Sustainability