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Senior officials to monitor coal supply to RTPS

By S. Rajendran

BANGALORE, JAN. 9. Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. (KPCL) has posted senior officials to monitor the movement of coal to the Raichur Thermal Power Station (RTPS) in the wake of the threat of an acute power shortage in the State if some units of the RTPS are shut down for want of coal.

In December, the RTPS faced a serious threat of shutting down some of its units following poor stocks of coal. The supply of coal has now improved, but sources in the State Government told The Hindu that it is only a temporary reprieve since there is a shortfall in coal production across the country.

The tsunami, which devastated many places along the coast in south India, also had its impact on the RTPS with the ships ferrying coal between Talcher in Orissa and Chennai suspending their operations. The RTPS receives a large quantum of coal from the Mahanadi Coalfields in Orissa. Coal is shipped to the Chennai harbour and from there it is moved to Raichur by rail.

Meanwhile, the Union Government has issued an advisory to all State governments and cement and steel factories with regard to the shortfall in coal production. The Union Government has also urged the States to opt for imported coal, if necessary. However, most of the power stations in the country cannot use imported coal owing to its high calorific value in comparison with Indian raw coal. The boilers of the power plants have been designed only to sustain Indian coal.

The coal supply to all power plants, and cement and steel manufacturing units are largely from the coal fields in Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. There are a few coal and lignite fields in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan but their production is limited. For instance, the lignite mined in Neyveli goes to the Neyveli Lignite Corporation, which is a major power producer in south India.

The Managing Director of KPCL, L.V. Nagarajan, told The Hindu that the supply of coal to the RTPS improved in the past few days. Officials of the rank of superintending engineer have been sent to Nagpur, Hyderabad, Talcher and Chennai to monitor the movement of coal rakes. It is also being supervised by an executive director.

Mr. Nagarajan said the RTPS, which has seven units of 210 MW each, needs 70 lakh tonnes of coal to fire its boilers. Normally, the RTPS will have at least two lakh tonnes of coal as buffer stock, but this dropped to an abysmal level. Only a few rakes of coal arrived in the first fortnight of December and the position slightly improved later. The RTPS has one of the best automated-coal handling units in the country, and it is one of the fastest in unloading coal.

Normally, the coal supply will be hit between July and September because of heavy rainfall, which results in flooding of some of the coalfields.

However, the plants will have a respite during the period when the demand for power drops. The coal supply in December dropped suddenly owing to a modernisation programme under implementation at the Western Coalfields and some problems at the Mahanadi Coalfields and at Singareni.

The Standing Linkage Committee of the Union Coal Ministry, which allots coal quotas to power, cement and steel producers, has permitted the RTPS to purchase coal from the Mahanadi, Western Singareni and South Eastern collieries in Chattisgarh.

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