By Ajoy K. Das

KOLKATA, India—Indian coal imports during the first quarter of the current fiscal year (April-June) have been pegged at 18.45 million metric tons (mt), up 41% over the corresponding period of the previous year, according to data sourced from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

Aggregated data for thermal power generation showed that power plants designed to operate with imported coking coal showed the highest rise in imports at 11.43 million mt during the first quarter, up almost 50% over the corresponding period of the previous year.

Further analysis of coal-fired power plants revealed that the 4,620-megawatt (MW) Adani Mundra plant recorded the highest inward shipment of dry fuel at 4.46 million mt, 302% higher than coal shipped during the corresponding previous period. This was followed by Tata Power Mundra, which imported 3.03 million mt, 38% higher than volumes shipped in the previous corresponding period. India’s largest power producer, NTPC Ltd. with an installed capacity of 39,855 MW, imported 774,000 mt during the first quarter. Of the total volume of coal imported into the country, an estimated 6.67 million mt were used by thermal power plants to blend with domestic coals.

Apart from a shortage in domestic supplies, thermal power utilities have also been emboldened to resort to higher imports of the dry fuel following a Supreme Court order last year permitting the power producers to pass the higher cost of generation through imported coal to the end electricity consumer. The court order was issued in response to an earlier court order that barred thermal power producers from increasing electricity tariffs in response to hikes in coal price effected by miners in Indonesia.

Industry analysts estimated that India, the second largest buyer in global coal markets, was expected to import around 180 million to 185 million mt during 2019-2020, up from 164 million mt in 2018-2019.