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Left with coal stock for just six days and with the wind season more than five months away, Tamil Nadu is likely to once again import coal for the four thermal plants managed by Tamil Nadu Distribution and Generation Corporation (Tangedco). They include North Chennai, Mettur, Ennore and Tuticorin thermal plants.
Despite strong discouragement from the Centre to stop import of coal, promise of coal linkages from mines such as Singareni has not been kept since September.
In December last year, Tangedco decided to stop import of coal after the discom signed MoU with Singareni Coal Mines to procure high grade coal for its thermal plants. Since then, coal was supplied regularly until September when the problem with supply of fuel for thermal units began across several states due to shortage of rail rakes.
“Since last December we have been getting coal regularly. A few months ago we tried to sign a fresh MoU with Singareni Coal Mines. But, we were told that coal from the mines is only for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. So, we could not sign an MoU,” a senior Tangedco official told TOI.
The MoU that was signed with Singareni mines was to supply one million tonnes of coal each year and it was convenient for Mettur Thermal plant to source coal through the rail route. “In the first year we thought we will get one million tonne. Later, we wanted to increase the evacuation depending on the demand,” said the official.
Tangedco started importing coal regularly from 2004-05. “The power utility requires about 26 million tonnes of coal for full capacity generation of power by units of North Chennai, Mettur, Ennore and Tuticorin thermal plants. Of the requirement, 20.445 million tonnes of coal is met by indigenous supply and the balance 5.50 million tonnes was imported,” said the official. With Tangedco being unable to import coal, 5.50million tonnes was to be sourced locally.
“Ever since the problem of rail rakes began, we approached the railways as well as coal ministry. Both point fingers at each other and we could not solve the problem of coal shortage. We have no choice other other than to import as our demand will start from mid-February onwards,” said the official.
Tangedco was importing coal mostly from Indonesia and occasionally from China, Russia and South Africa. “The imported coal is offloaded either at Ennore Port or at Tuticorin port and all thermal units except Ennore thermal plant uses imported coal. The imported coal is of high calorific value and it reduces damage or frequent tripping of our units both with low and high capacity,” the official said.
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