Russian coal can be replaced

Based on the latest survey of members of Germany’s Coal Importers Association (VDKi) in Berlin, hard coal imports from Russia can, at least in the medium term, be replaced entirely by imports from other countries (Figure  1). These other countries include the USA, South Africa, Australia, Colombia, Mozambique, Indonesia. Approximately 80 % of the members surveyed were in favour of this.

Fig. 1. VDKi member survey on hard coal reserves. Source: VDKi

Alexander Bethe, Chairman of the VDKi: “We have an efficient global market with approximately 1 bn t hard coal. In the last year, Germany has imported approximately 20 Mt of hard coal from Russia, approximately 18 Mt of which are for the power industry. This is about 2 % of the global trade”.

Due to the reorganisation of goods flows and shortages of certain hard coal qualities, the VDKi believes there will soon be price increases. According to approximately 60 % of those surveyed, however, the prices for imported hard coal will stagnate in the medium to long term.

A delivery stop would hardly be surprising for the VDKi. Since September last year, logistical problems with the import of Russian hard coal have continued to pile up. Since then, retailers and consumers have been searching for alternatives and already import from countries other than Russia.

Besides, Russian hard coal has specific qualitative properties. The switch to alternative hard coal qualities will certainly require the power station engineers in the transition period as the change will not be easy. The relevant authorities for handling design specifications should also bear this in mind.  “But ultimately”, says Bethe, “we will overcome this challenge”.

56 % of those surveyed graded the current supply situation for this winter as “satisfactory”. And for next winter, another 22 %.

In the context of a national hard coal reserve, the vast majority of VDKi members surveyed, 84 %, spoke out in favour of a decentralised stockpiling of hard coal. 16 % voted for centralised storage.

Stephan Riezler (STEAG GmbH), VDKi board member: “By next winter, we should be able to dispense with Russian hard coal altogether.” But it is important to consider: Germany’s most stringent emission limits may need to be adjusted for a reasonable period. (VDKi/Si.)