India’s thermal coal imports from the US at over two-year high in November

India increased its long haul thermal coal cargoes in November this year with inbound shipments from the US rising to 1.40 million tonnes (MT), its highest in over a year.

According to the energy intelligence firm Kpler, India imported a total of 17.51 MT of thermal coal, lower than the 15-month high of 18.66 MT recorded in October 2023.

Kpler’s Lead Major Dry Bulks Analyst, Alexis Ellender said that India imported 23.27 MT of seaborne coal last month, down from a five-month high of 24.37 MT in October 2023, but still up by 6.92 MT Y-o-Y. At 222.43 MT, the combined January-November 2023 shipments were up by 11.39 MT on an annual basis.

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“Although easing from the 15-month peak recorded in October, thermal coal imports still reached 17.51 MT last month, a new November high,” Ellender told businessline.

Long haul cargoes

“Of particular note was the jump in long haul cargoes from the US, which hit the highest level in more than two years at 1.40 MT, as the country sought to ship surplus domestic supply,” he said.

The US supplied a total of 12.03 MT of coal (Thermal and Metallurgical) to India in FY18, which rose to 14.18 MT in the next fiscal year. In FY20 and FY21, import of the crucial commodity was lower at 12.16 MT and 12.20 MT, respectively. In FY22, India imported higher volumes at 14.37 MT from the US, which again fell to 13.69 MT in FY23.

In 2022, Indonesia was India’s largest overseas supplier of thermal coal, which grew at the expense of Australia and South Africa. On the other hand, Russia overtook the US to become the fourth-largest supplier.

However, the US is India’s second biggest supplier of coking coal after Australia as of October 2023. Russia is the third biggest supplier.

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During April–October 2023, Australia remained the largest supplier of coking coal with 20.17 MT, down 12 per cent y-o-y. Shipments from the US rose 9 per cent y-o-y to 4.97 MT. Russia, the third largest supplier, saw a 210 per cent growth to 3.46 MT.

Imports largely stable

Ellender pointed out that monthly imports from other suppliers remained largely stable or experienced a modest m-o-m fall.

“Indonesia remained by far the largest thermal coal supplier in November at 10.46 MT. This easing in thermal coal imports occurred alongside a seasonal upturn in domestic coal production, which reached the highest monthly level since April at 84.52 MT. Domestic coal dispatches also increased,” he added.

The combination of annual growth in imports, a seasonal upturn in domestic supply, and reduced power demand for cooling as temperatures fall, has supported restocking efforts at some Indian power stations, he explained.

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“By the end of November, coal stockpiles at major power plants monitored by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had risen to 27.09 MP, up from 21.15 MT a month earlier and marking the highest level since mid-September. However, stockpiles were still down by 3.85 MT on the end November 2022 level and only 47 per cent of normative stocks. Restocking endeavours should support further seaborne imports,” Ellender said.

Kpler expects coal imports to decline in December on a monthly basis.

“With domestic supply expected to climb higher still in December, we expect a further m-o-m fall in seaborne thermal coal imports this month; however, shipments should still exceed the year-ago level in December and into the Q124,” he said.

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