Coal supply shortage continues to haunt NTPC, the country’s largest power generator, with latest government data showing 31% of the company’s coal-based capacity is running with ‘hand to mouth’ coal stock. As on November 12, six major NTPC power plants, with a combined capacity of 12,480 MW, have fuel stock of ‘zero’ days, data from the Central Electricity Authority show.
NTPC’s 2,980 MW Sipat plant in Chattisgarh, 2,340 MW Kahalgaon unit in Bihar, 2,100 MW Farakka station in West Bengal, 2,400 MW Kudgi unit in Karnataka, 2,000 MW Simhadri plant in Andhra Pradesh and the 660 MW Solapur plant in Maharashtra are grappling with severe fuel shortage.
Interestingly, the first three aforementioned plants are pit-head stations, suggesting that production at the mines dedicated to specific power plants are not being able to cater to the necessary requirements. Power plants across the country have been complaining about coal supply, but the brunt of fuel shortage has traditionally been faced by the units located far away from the coal mines.
“We are using carpet coal (leftover chunks and powder) to run our plants on a hand to mouth basis,” a senior official at the Kahalgaon plant told FE on condition of anonymity. The station sources coal from the Rajmahal mines, which supply fuel to the Kahalgaon and Farakka stations through the company’s ‘merry-go-round’ railway system. The mine produces 45,000 tonnes of coal per day, of which 34,000 tonnes go to Kahalgaon, while the remaining goes to the Farakka plant, which is also facing fuel scarcity.
“Our daily requirement is 40,000 tonnes and we manage to get one additional rake (about 3,000 tonnes) from the Indian Railways every day but that is not sufficient,” the person cited above added.
Coal India’s (CIL) Rajmahal mine is not being able to ramp up production as its expansion plans are impeded by land acquisition issues.
The coal shortage coincides with a sudden surge in electricity demand. As on November 13, year-on-year peak demand in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka has increased by 14%, 14%, 18% and 22%, respectively. Coal-based power generation recorded a 5.4% y-o-y rise in the April-October period whereas a whopping 11% rise was recorded in October itself.
NTPC has recently reported under-recoveries of Rs 210 crore in Q2FY19 owing to unavailability of coal, causing its net profit to slip by 1.1% y-o-y to Rs 2,417.6 crore. To tackle the domestic fuel shortage, NTPC paid Rs 10,000 crore in advance to the railways to receive coal supply at unrevised rates until FY20.