Picture: 123RF/ARTUR NYK
Picture: 123RF/ARTUR NYK

Frankfurt — Germany is expected to import 45-million tons of hard coal in 2019,up roughly 1.4%  from 2018 despite mounting competition from renewable energy, as the closure of domestic mines reduces domestic supply, importers say.

The total would comprise an estimated 30-million tons for power generation and 15-million tons of coking coal and coke, products used in steelmaking, data from lobby group VDKI showed.

Germany’s last two hard-coal mines, in the west of the country, closed at the end of December under a deal to stop unprofitable mining in favour of imports. The pair had contributed an annual 2.6-million tons of power station feedstock.

The coal importer lobby said hard coal usage would benefit from a court ban on logging in an ancient forest, a move that will impede the mining of domestic rival lignite, or brown coal, by utility RWE.

The court ruling curbs supply to RWE’s brown-coal power plants, and hard coal could cover part of the deficit.

Forecasts

The two types of coal accounted for a combined 38%  of German power production in 2018. 

Despite the forecast rise, there could be import losses in 2019 as a result of a long-term national plan, due within the next fortnight, on phasing out coal, VDKI said.

The projected increase would also be from a weaker base.

Volumes in 2018 declined by 13%  year on year to 44.5-million tons as renewable energy gets priority on grids, elbowing out thermal plants’ output. Steam coal imports for power stations alone fell 17%  to 30-million tons.

Green power made up 40%  of total generation in 2018, resulting from Germany’s politically driven process to replace fossil fuels.

VDKI estimated the addition of green power plants lost it 3- million tons of imports in 2018,while relatively high solar production in a hot year also played a part.

“2018, just like 2017, was a very bad year for hard coal in Germany,” VDKI chair Wolfgang Cieslik said during the presentation of the data in Hamburg.

VDKI  MD Franz-Josef Wodopia said steelmaking usage of coal could benefit from higher demand projections by the World Steel Association for 2019, but cautioned that the macroeconomic environment had recently worsened.

“We cautiously expect the same level of imports as in 2018,” he said of coking coal.

Reuters