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Kamis, 23 Juni 2011

Japanese coal plants delayed return removes 8 million mt/year in demand - Platts

Three out of five Japanese coal-fired power plants that were damaged in the country's devastating March natural disasters are set to return to the Japanese electricity grid next month, while repairs to two other quake-hit coal plants may take until 2013, according to Japanese coal market sources Wednesday.

The delayed return of the remaining two plants effectively translates into lost demand for imported thermal coal of about 8 million mt/year. The five quake-affected power plants are Tokyo Electric Power's 600-MW Hirono and 1,000-MW Hitachinaka plants, Tohoku Electric Power's 2,000 MW Haramachi plant and two plants operated by a joint venture between Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power, 1,450 MW Nakoso and 1,000 MW Soma.

These five coal plants were consuming between 15-16 million mt/year of imported thermal coal prior to the March 11 disaster, according to Japanese coal market sources. "Five coal-fired plants were hit by the earthquake and tsunami in March and the prospects are that three of those plants will resume power generation from July," one Japanese market source said Wednesday. "Demand for electricity is increasing in Japan for the summer months and customers are looking at the spot market," said a second market source, who estimated that Tepco's 10 million mt/year consumption of thermal coal would be trimmed by 20% this year.

While these five plants have been out of action, their shipments of imported thermal coal have been delayed, or pushed back to a later date. Some of the vessels that would have delivered these coal shipments under long-term freight contracts have been reassigned to other cargoes in the freight market.

"Tepco declared force majeure on its coal shipments, and so shipping agents were left with increased tonnage on their hands. They went into the market to find alternative cargoes for these vessels," the first market source explained. "Some vessels are now returning to their original contracts to ship coal again to Japan. When the three Japanese power plants resume production they will need to secure cargoes of coal," he stated.

The three Japanese coal plants that have recovered to date are Tepco's Hitachinaka plant which came back online in May, and Tepco's Hirono plant and the Nakoso plant which are set to restart in July. Their combined demand for thermal coal is estimated at 7-8 million mt/year by Japanese market sources. Both the Hirono and Nakoso plants receive shipments of imported coal through Onahama port located 170 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan's eastern seaboard. "Even with the three plants returning to operation, Japan will still have two other plants under repair," said the first market source. The Soma coal plant is likely to return in early 2012, and Tohoku's Haramachi coal plant which was reportedly more seriously damaged in the earthquake is set to restart in 2013, said the first market source.

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