Last week, thermal coal quotations in Europe strengthened above 350 USD/t, on the back of the continuing high volatility in the energy markets, as well as the heat wave in the EU, resulting in the reduced capacity utilization at some coal and nuclear power plants in Germany and France.
Due to the high temperatures in the EU the water level in the Rhine River, which is one of the main transport arteries in the region, dropped to 46 cm, that has already caused outages at several coal-fired power plants of Uniper in Germany (510 MW Staudinger and 1.1 GW Datteln), as well as limiting the load of the first decommissioned 752 MW Mehrum power plant. In a few days the water level is expected to drop below the 40 cm mark and then the navigation will become impossible. ARA coal stocks are still holding at historical highs above 8 mio t amid logistical issues with barge coal deliveries to German generating companies.
Nuclear generation in France is also declining because of problems related to corrosion and cooling of nuclear power plants along with maintenance, that is traditionally scheduled for the summer season, when energy consumption is lower.
South African coal prices rebounded slightly from last week's drop, rising above 312 USD/t, following the European indices growth, while Indian consumers continue to enhance imports of Russian material, supplied at a significant discount, using it instead of South African production or by mixing Russian coal 6000 with South African 4800. Some Indian power plants are testing a mix of Russian and Indonesian coal. Indian generating companies note that material from Russia with 22-25% volatile matter content can completely replace supplies from South Africa.
In China, spot prices for 5500 NAR at the port of Qinhuangdao slipped to 169 USD/t (-1 USD/t w-o-w). Decrease in quotations on the Chinese market slowed down, following the growth of accidents at underground mines. Prices were also supported by the resumption of operations at several chemical plants and an increase in demand from cement producers owing to government support for infrastructure projects.
Chinese regional authorities stated that unscheduled safety inspections will be conducted at coal mines in major mining regions, including Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Shandong.
Indonesian 5900 GAR fell to 175 FOB due to low activity of Indian consumers, who took a wait-and-see attitude, expecting a further price correction.
Indonesia's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources banned more than 40 producers from exporting coal for breaching commitments to supply the domestic market. The authorities note that the ban will be limited and will affect minor mining companies.
Quotes of high-CV Australian coal dipped below 397 USD/t amid lower consumer activity in the Asia-Pacific. The results of tenders held in South Korea also indicate a downward trend.
Australian metallurgical coal indices after a long fall kept strengthening above USD 225/t, driven by increasing demand on the spot market. Additional support for prices was provided by the government's decision not to issue a permit for construction of a new mine in Queensland because of its proximity to protected areas. The project, assuming production of 2 mio t with a further increase up to 10 mio t of coal per year, was proposed by Central Queensland Coal Proprietary Limited.