Blizzard-induced coal shortages lead to power rationing

By Maverick Chen
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, January 8, 2010
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A cold wave has brought unusual blizzards to the northern, eastern and central regions of China, causing energy demands to soar. A tight supply of electricity-generating coal combined with the difficulties of transporting it in the icy weather has resulted in power-rationing measures across eastern and central China.

Power and coal shortages have occurred in Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Henan provinces. Coal reserves in the power plants across Henan Province can only sustain for about eight more days, while in some plants, three. Power plants in Jiangxi, which are owned by East China Grid Company, are reporting coal stocks of only 1,068 kilotons, far lower than the 1,600 kiloton alert level.

Shortages are striking all across the East China Grid, as some power stations in Anhui Province have already suspended production due to coal insufficiency. Cities in Jiangsu and Hubei officially launched power rations a few days ago.

The National Meteorological Center says the freezing weather will continue for the next few days. To ensure power supply, all major power companies are stepping up transportation efforts. As of 8:00 pm on January 4, 306.96 million tons of coal had been shipped. According to coal market information Web site, energy experts are predicting that in the following 10 days the amount of coal will increase in "geometric progression."

Meanwhile, China Shipping Container Lines Company, the main transporter of coal from north to south China, is assembling a freight fleet to transport the coal heaped up in the Qinhuangdao Port on the northeast coastline of China.

Qinhuangdao maximizes efforts

Affected by the cold wave and windy sea conditions, more than 200 ships were stranded at Qinhuangdao harbour this week. After the nautical traffic resumed, Qinhuangdao port authorities quickly launched a back-up plan and re-started dock operations. The local maritime safety administration is using an advanced traffic control system and giving priority to coal-transporting vessels.

"Our goal is to ensure the coal vessels enter and exit the ports as quickly as possible; we are coordinating the entire facility, making the trucks, cranes and belts standby in order to give coal ships the fastest service. This can shorten the loading time by more than three hours," said Li Ming, a port worker.

According to the port authorities' statistics, by 6:00 pm on January 6, one million tons of coal had been loaded to southward-bound ships.

The coal freight of Qinhuangdao has always been a gauge for the trend in national coal prices. The coal freight in Qinhuangdao port went up again last week, continuing the trend for the past four months and registering a record high for the past year.

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