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China deals with coal shortages to ensure power supply in quake zone
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China takes emergency measures to cope with "short supplies of coal, diesel and power in some areas, " and vows to ensure energy supply during reconstruction in quake zones.

Guizhou, Shaanxi provinces and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region should continue to supply coal to quake-hit areas to ensure the power generation of thermal power stations there, said an emergency circular of the State Council made available to Xinhua on Saturday.

The overall supply and demand for coal, oil, electricity and agricultural goods and materials are now in balance, with short supplies in some areas, said the circular.

It urged local governments to guarantee the supplies of coal, oil, gas, electricity and agricultural goods, saying it would provide the basis for promoting disaster relief, garnering agricultural harvests for the whole year and maintaining the national economy on a healthy and fast track.

China's coal-fired power industry has been under stress from coal shortages this year, but the 8.0-magnitude earthquake exacerbated the problem as it damaged a considerable number of the hydropower stations in southwest China, which could not restore power generation in the near future.

As the damaged power network gets repaired, reconstruction embarks on and the industries restore operation, the demand for power would gradually recover to the level before the earthquake.

Thermal power stations would have to make up for the lost hydropower during the reconstruction period, generating an even higher demand for coal.

By May 21, coal stocks fell to a level sufficient for less than seven days in some power plants in Sichuan Province with an aggregate amount of power capacity of 4 gigawatts.

Starting from then, the railway authorities used six trains to ship coal from Guizhou, Shaanxi and Henan provinces to Sichuan, and the government might draw on power supply from the Three Gorges Dam in real difficult situations to make ends meet.

The circular urged coal-manufacturing provinces to increase their output and speed up the approval process for resumption of production at small coal mines that had been suspended from operation to amend safety problems.

Coal-producing counties should wait for the approval of provincial government and report to the National Development and Reform Commission and State Administration of Work Safety if it plans to reduce one third of its coal output, according to the circular.

Coal production in quake zone should also be restored as soon as possible when work safety could be ensured, said the circular.

Thermal power plants should take measures to keep no less than 15 days of coal stock, said the circular.

The circular also ordered the China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec to guarantee oil supply to the quake zone.

(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2008)

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