India Coal Logistics Perspective

By Dave Gambrel

There are many terminals that can unload coal in India; our interest is focused on terminals that service the major existing coal-fired power stations, those that generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) or greater. There are 17 such thermal stations on the West Coast (Arabian Sea), and another 16 on the East Coast (Bay of Bengal) (See Table 1). West Coast power stations receive coal through five different major terminals, and East Coast stations receive coal from nine different major terminals.

TT Table1The West Coast terminals can all handle Panamax vessels, and one of them can also handle a Capesize vessel. The East Coast terminals can accommodate Panamax vessels, and two of them can also handle Capesize. Capesize vessels usually have the cheapest rates per ton, which is very important for U.S. shippers. At many terminals, there is a complication that charterers should be aware of because it has the potential to extend berth time and cause demurrage: inefficient off-load equipment and end-user connectivity. 

In its 4,671-mile coastline, India is home to 12 major ports as well as 200 non-major ports. The 200 non-major ports are in the following states: Gujarat (42); Maharashtra (48); Tamil Nadu (15); Karnataka (10); Kerala (17); Andhra Pradesh (12); Odisha (13); Goa (5); West Bengal (1); Daman and Diu (2); Lakshadweep (10); Pondicherry (2); and Andaman and Nicobar (23). Many of these are either non-coal ports or too small to accommodate the minimum-sized vessel that can compete carrying U.S. coal, the Panamax vessel. We only regard a coal terminal as major if it can receive and unload a Panamax vessel or larger.

Right now, there are only three Indian coal ports that are capesize-capable: Mundra (West Coast), Gangavarum (East Coast) and Krishnapatnam (East Coast). Looking into the future a few years, it is also possible to draw a bead on the next generation of coastal power plants, those that are based on super-critical technology, the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP). Presumably, these will be served by existing or new terminals that can accommodate the larger vessels. Table 3 shows those terminals that can accommodate both Capesize and

Panamax vessels, and lists some of the coal consumers importing at those terminals.

Indian terminal operators use the term “connectivity” to refer to the road or railway delivery system to the power station or other coal user, as well as the conveyor systems or intensive labor systems for moving coal from the dockside to the stockpile and then to the final delivery system. For example, in June 2014, half of the 27 stranded ships in the Paradip port were each carrying 90,000 metric tons (mt) of coal and taking up to six days to unload with inefficient clamshell cranes. In India, it is still commonplace to see men working the coal piles by hand or loading coal by hand and shovel into trucks or coal cars, the natural result of having a large population.

Groups of coal cars in India are called rakes. Bulk freight transport rates also vary based on the number of times a rake may be loaded or unloaded. A so-called two-point rake is one that can be loaded or unloaded at two points, usually a half-rake at a time, at approved combinations of two loading or unloading locations. Some freight rakes are used continuously in dedicated operations over a closed-loop journey. These are known as closed-circuit rakes, and typically consist of 66-ton BOXN wagons. The BOXN is a high-sided open rail car with pneumatic brakes and high-tensile couplers. Perhaps the most common wagon, there are around 64,000 or more of them in use. These rakes are often also subjected to a more rigorous maintenance regime, known as the super-intensive examination, and have brake power certificates issued for 6,000 km, or 35 days at a time.

UMPP is a series of ambitious power stations planned by the government of India. They would entail the creation of an additional capacity of at least 100,000 MW by 2022. UMPP, each with a capacity of 4,000 MW or above, are being developed with the aim of bridging this gap. Of the 12 stations planned for the project, seven are coastal plants requiring imported coal and five require local coal. Currently, only two UMPPs have been commissioned, Mundra (imported coal) and Sasan (local coal). Mundra is already taking imported coal, some of it from the USA.

Coal producers are not the only ones interested in the speed of UMPP development. Indian port operators such as Krishnapatnam (KCPL) have an intense interest. Midway through 2010, iron ore exports were banned, leaving the KCPL port no choice but to focus on coal and other bulk commodities. KCPL has responded like a true entrepreneur, expanding their bulk importing facilities. However, we learn that power plants commissioned since April 2014, aggregating to 13,900 MW, face financial uncertainties due to the lack of sufficient off-take agreements and transmission constraints, according to Fitch Group’s company India Ratings & Research. Keep an eye on the UMPP.

Based on supercritical technology, 16,000 MW of capacity have been contracted through the competitive bidding process for UMPPs. The average tariff for these projects is in the range of 2-3 rupees per kWh, which is much lower than the recent cost-plus tariffs. The first UMPP, developed by Tata Power at Mundra, Gujarat has been commissioned and contributes 4,150 MW in power to the western grid. For comparison, America’s largest coal-fired power plant, Southern Co.’s Scherer plant, generates 3,564 MW.

The UMPPs are seen as an expansion of the MPP (Mega Power Projects) that the government of India undertook in the 1990s, but met with limited success. The Ministry of Power, in association with the Central Electricity Authority and Power Finance Corporation Ltd., has launched an initiative for the development of coal-based UMPP’s in India. These projects will be awarded to developers on the basis of competitive bidding. One should not only watch the website,, and the government-based power company NTPC, but watch private power generation companies as well to stay abreast of new coal import needs. These include two major Indian companies that are privately owned:

On May 11, Adani Power announced the completion of the acquisition of Udupi Power Corp. Ltd. and with this, Adani Power has a total commissioned capacity of 10,440 MW, making it the largest private power producer in India.

  • Mundra Thermal Power Station. A 4,620-MW (4 x 330, 5 x 660 MW) coal-based thermal power plant at Mundra, Kutch district, Gujarat. This plant is fully functional. It operates a first power transmission project of 400-kV Double Circuit Transmission System from the Mundra plant to Dehgam (430 km).
  • Kawai Thermal Power Station. A 1,320-MW (2 x 660 MW) coal-based thermal power plant at Kawai village, Baran district, Rajasthan. This plant is fully functional.
  • Tiroda Thermal Power Station. A 3,300-MW (5 x 660 MW) coal-based thermal power plant at Tiroda, Gondia district, Maharashtra. All units are fully functional.
  • Udupi Power Plant. A 1,200-MW (2 x 600 MW) coal-based thermal power plant at Padubidri, Udupi district, Karnataka. Both units are fully functional and have been since September 2012. Adani Power acquired this power plant from Lanco Infratech in August 2014.
  • As of January 2011, the company had 16,500 MW under implementation and planning stage. A few of them were 3,300-MW coal-based TPP at Bhadreswar in Gujarat, 2,640-MW TPP at Dahej in Gujarat, 1,320-MW TPP at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, 2,000-MW TPP at Anugul in Orissa, and 2,000-MW gas-based power project at Mundra in Gujarat. The company is also bidding for 1,000 MW of lignite coal-based power plant at Kosovo showing its international projects.

In the second week of August 2014, Adani power had acquired Lanco Infratech’s Udipi thermal power plant. This would add another 1,200 MW of installed capacity, taking the group capacity to 10,480 MW.

Essar Energy has an installed power generation capacity of 3,910 MW across six plants, and is a very progressive company. However, they purchased two Siwertell unloaders two years ago for dust-free unloading of coal, and have been struggling to use them. They need to acquire land for the placement of transport conveyors that are needed to move coal from the unloaders to the power plant, so the Siwertells have not yet been put into service.

  • Essar Vadinar Power Plant, Vadinar, Gujarat. It is a 1,010-MW (1 x 120, 1 x 380 MW, 1 x 510 MW) captive thermal power plant. The plant is fully functional.
  • Essar Salaya Power Plant, Salaya, Gujarat. It is a 1,200-MW (2 x 600 MW) coal-based thermal power plant. The plant is fully functional.
  • Essar Mahan Power Plant, Mahan, Singrauli district Madhya Pradesh. It is a 1,200-MW (2 x 600 MW) coal-based thermal power plant. One unit is functional.
  • Essar Hazira-2 Power Plant, Hazira, Gujarat. It is a 270-MW (1 x 135 MW) thermal power plant. This plant is yet to become operational.
  • Essar Tori Power Plant, Tori, Jharkhand. It is an 1,800-MW (3 x 600 MW) coal-based thermal power plant. This plant is yet to become operational.
  • Essar Paradip Power Plant, Paradip, Odisha. It is a 120-MW (4 x 30 MW) coal-based thermal power plant. This plant is yet to become operational.