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Power position in India turns grim as coal stocks dip at stations, again

According to reports, despite promise of increased coal supplies to the power sector, the fuel stock situation at key thermal stations seems to have taken a turn for the worse. The power situation can turn grim.

The latest estimates suggest that nine stations, including NTPC’s 2,000 MW Singrauli and 3,260 MW Vindhyachal super thermal stations and the Damodar Valley Corporation’s 2,340 MW Mejia in West Bengal, are left with a day’s stock or less.

Incidentally, the coal stock position on October 19, the latest date for which this information has been made available, has been the worst since the beginning of the current month.

The worsening position comes after a brief blip in the middle of the month, when coal stocks at stations showed signs of improving.

The improved coal stock position, reflected in the data for October 16, had come at a time when the Coal Ministry was claiming that coal companies had stepped up despatches to key thermal stations.

According to the latest data, stations with less than a week’s coal stock have risen to a record 51, up from 36 at the beginning of the month. Also, out of the 86 major thermal stations monitored for their coal stock position, 32 were operating with stocks of less than four days. The 51 stations that have less than a week’s coal stock add up to a cumulative power generating capacity of well over two-thirds of the country’s total installed coal-fired capacity of 99,503 MW.

Thermal stations are normally expected to hold coal stocks for between 15 and 30 days, depending on their location.

While pithead stations are expected to hold stocks of 15 days or more, stations located away from the mine are expected to hold coal stocks for 21 to 30 days.

NTPC Ltd said it is juggling fuel stocks from various sources, including imports and several domestic coal fields, to ensure operations at some stations that have been hit hard by the coal crunch, company officials said.

Estimates suggest that NTPC’s Singrauli and Vindhyachal stations had stocks of about 1,000 tonnes each as on October 19 against a requirement of 31,600 tonnes and 52,300 tonnes respectively.

While, generally, it takes between a week and 10 days to ensure the availability of a fresh consignment of coal in stations with assured fuel linkages, the continuing nationwide coal crunch means stations will have to manage with precariously low stock for now.

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