The situation on the domestic coal market is deteriorating. There is a shortage of raw materials for both power plants and home heating. The market regulator has already received 20 notifications from energy companies regarding a decrease in inventories below the safe minimum. In some coal yards there are regulations, and at the mines there are queues of trucks at night. Meanwhile, the greatest frosts and the peak of the heating season are still ahead of us.
- There is a growing number of power plants and heating plants that are not able to secure an adequate amount of fuel reserves for the winter
- Individual customers also have problems with purchasing coal. They have to reckon with daily limits, overnight queues or waiting list entries
- The problems result not only from the production limitations of Polish mines, but also from the lack of a sufficient number of wagons to transport the raw material
- In addition, there is a sharp increase in the price of coal – according to experts – lasts all winter
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More and more energy companies have problems with keeping coal reserves at a safe level. The Energy Regulatory Office has already received 20 notifications from eleven companies regarding the reduction of inventories. This may herald troubles in the event of a cold winter, geological problems of Polish mines or deepening of logistic problems in the country.
For now, the deviations from the norm in the storage facilities at the power plants are not great. The reductions amount to a maximum of several percent of the required stock, informs us Magdalena Dąbrowska from the press office of the Energy Regulatory Office. However, it is worrying that problems started to appear already in early November, well before the peak of the heating season, and that the number of power plants reporting a decline in stocks continues to rise.
According to our findings Recently, problems with maintaining reserves have been experienced, among others, by large power plants, including Opole and Rybnik (both belong to PGE) and Ostrołęka (Energa), as well as a number of smaller heat and power plants, incl. in Kalisz, Elbląg, Bydgoszcz, Kraśnik, Zamość and Łowicz.
The current situation is due to, inter alia, increased demand for coal-based energy across Europe. The economic recovery after the pandemic and record gas prices have made black fuel return to favor, and Polish power plants are again operating at full capacity, supplying not only the domestic market, but also exporting energy to neighboring countries. Meanwhile, the country’s largest coal company Polska Grupa Górnicza suspended development investments in its mines, by adjusting the operations to the schedule of shutting down mining plants already adopted by the government and miners.
Polska Grupa Energetyczna, which is the largest domestic producer of electricity and heat, also mentions the reasons for this situation logistical problems lasting for several months, including the lack of a sufficient number of coal wagons to transport the raw material. The current situation on the steam coal market has caused supply difficulties for domestic power plants and combined heat and power plants. These difficulties are also influenced by the restrictions on coal transport, which we have been observing for several months, probably caused by increased transport of raw materials before the winter period and insufficient resources for coal transport (coal trucks and service), explains Małgorzata Babska, PGE spokeswoman.
He also admits that although the company has secured long- and short-term hard coal supply contracts, it does the current level of steam coal inventories in most of the PGE Group branches is lower than planned. PGE makes every possible effort to avoid a lack of coal in any of its generating units, adds Babska.
High prices and night queues
The turmoil on the coal market also affects individual customers who heat their homes with black fuel. Not only have the prices of the raw material soared this season (you have to pay even PLN 1.3-1.5 thousand per ton of good quality coal), but also its availability is very limited. Some warehouses have provisions for Polish coal. On the other hand, at PGG mines, where the raw material can be purchased much cheaper than at an intermediary, queues of trucks line up in the middle of the night. The company also introduced limits on the purchase of coal so that as many people as possible could take advantage of the offer.
Due to the great interest in coal from our plants, we have introduced a daily sales limit per contractor of three to five tons depending on the mine – informs Tomasz Głogowski, spokesman for PGG.
Even the availability of Russian heating coal is limited, which has so far been available. Today, Asian countries are competing for Russian coal, consuming large amounts of this raw material and paying high prices for it. explains Łukasz Horbacz, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Polish Coal Sellers.
He also draws attention to the logistical problems in the country. We have a unique situation, because electricity in Poland is one of the cheapest in Europe today. This resulted in an increase in production in Polish power plants and increased demand for coal dust, which involves rail transport more than usual. As a result, there are no coal wagons for transporting heating coal. Therefore, on the Polish market, we have a problem with the availability of raw material in the warehouses of Horbacz translators.
At the same time, sellers indicate that the customers themselves were driving the demand spiral just before the heating season. Fearing a shortage of coal in warehouses and further price increases, they bought more fuel than usual. This resulted in a reduction in the supply of the raw material and an increase in its prices. It is enough that each household buys 250 kg of coal more than usual, and this translates into an increase in demand by several hundred thousand tons on a national scale, estimates the president of IGSPW.
At the same time, he admits that he cannot count on a drop in prices in the near future. I am afraid that high coal prices will remain until March, as indicated by price indices in European ports says Horbacz.
Back to normal in a few months
The support for the domestic market is foreign coal, which supplies, among others, households and heating plants, but also industrial energy. However, due to the aforementioned factors, including the huge demand for this raw material on Asian markets, no record imports should be expected this year. According to Eurostat data, 8.4 million tons of foreign coal, mainly from Russia, flowed into our country from January to the end of August. It’s about 10 percent. more than in the same period of 2020, but far from the record-breaking 2018, when coal imports totaled over 19 million tonnes throughout the year.
Energa from the Orlen Group ensures that it implements a policy of purchasing and storing coal adequately to the needs and does not plan to import coal from abroad. – The coal used by the power plants and heating plants of the Energa group comes from Polish producers. Market trends and the state of warehouses are monitored on an ongoing basis – says Krzysztof Kopeć, director of the Energa press office.
According to Marcin Roszkowski, president of the Jagiellonian Institute, despite the current market turmoil, We will not run out of coal in winter. – This is an unusual year because we are recovering from a pandemic. The demand for energy resources is gigantic, and we compete for them with other countries in Europe and the world. The effect is that we see various anomalies, e.g. in the gas market, which has caused confusion on the heating market – notes Roszkowski. – The situation should return to normal in a few months. If the winter is mild, we will get out of this crisis sooner – convinces the head of the Jagiellonian Institute.