Serbia: EPS must also import coal

, SEE Energy News

The Government of Serbia recently passed a Conclusion according to which Elektroprivreda is approved to import four million tons of coal, which is estimated that EPS, due to the current situation, lacks by the end of 2023. The public company told Euronews Serbia that talks on imports are under way with Republika Srpska, Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria.

A month and a half ago, the Pljevlja Mine, owned by Elektroprivreda Crne Gore, announced that an agreement had been reached with EPS on the delivery of about 300,000 tons of coal this year, with a tendency to increase that amount in the coming period.

EPS claims that domestic coal reserves of satisfactory quality for the operation of thermal power plants in surface mines are sufficient for long-term operation of about 50 years. So we have coal, but it is still deep underground, because the mines are not ready for its excavation. Thus, we came to the situation that the state-owned company will have to buy almost ten times more coal from abroad for the upcoming season, even compared to the time of the biggest incident, when the mines were under water.

They state that EPS has not imported coal so far, ie that it has happened only once, after the floods in May 2014, when production in the Kolubara Mining Basin was reduced due to the sinking of the Veliki Crljeni and Tamnava – Zapadno Polje mines. Then, as they say, in the period from January to March 2015, 352,000 tons of coal were imported from Romania for the needs of TENT A.

EPS told Euronews Serbia that the current problem is that there is not enough coal discovered due to non-fulfillment of plans to excavate the discovery.

To ensure sufficient quantities of coal in Serbia, significant investments are needed, primarily in the procurement of basic mining machinery for replacement and new mines – Field E and “Radljevo”, larger investments in maintenance of old mining machinery and hiring young production workers. Field E is a replacement mine. for Field D, which ended its exploitation at the beginning of 2021, while “Radljevo” is a new mine, according to the Electric Power Industry of Serbia.

They claim that with the provision of sufficient funds for the purchase of new equipment, revitalization and quality maintenance of old equipment for excavating overburden and coal, raising coal production to the required level is possible in the coming period, but do not specify a deadline within which this could happen.

Ignjatovic: It takes 3 to 5 years to stabilize the system

Dragan Ignjatović, professor at the Department of Mine Mechanization at the Faculty of Mining and Geology in Belgrade, told Euronews Serbia that by importing and gradually increasing the reliability of EPS equipment, he will partially fix the problem next year, but that a long-term solution requires at least three to five years.

“Investments must be made in the procurement of new as well as revitalization and modernization of old equipment in order to solve the problem of defects in tailings excavation. In addition, investments must be made in drainage, auxiliary mechanization and expropriation. E. Mining is a sluggish and inert system, it will take several years to reach full production and obtain quality coal.Only to procure one system – a rotary excavator, conveyors and a dumper takes at least three years, so it takes up to five years to complete stabilization of the system “, believes Ignjatović.

The professor says that Serbia annually imported about 1,000,000 tons of high quality coal for industry and mass consumption, but that EPS did not participate in the import of this coal because our thermal power plants are designed to burn low quality coal – TENT at just under 7,000 kilojoules per kilogram. Kostolac at something around 8,500.

“It is planned to import about 2,000,000 tons this year for the needs of thermal power plants in Obrenovac (TENT) and Morava in Svilajnac. The reason for this is that Kolubara will produce about 5,000,000 tons less than in previous years,” the professor explains.

He notes that the purchase of foreign coal will compensate only a part of the needs for thermal power plants, and points out that the quantities of coal from Kolubara and Kostolac for mass consumption, which must be additionally imported, will also be reduced. This could be an additional blow to the consumer budget, because there will be less coal from domestic mines for households as well.

“The price of imported coal will certainly be much more expensive than the producer price from EPS, because the transport costs are high, especially if there is no water or rail transport and if it is better quality coal like Pljevlja, Kreka and Stanar,” says the professor.

Why does EPS have to import coal?

Ignjatović notes that the biggest problem is that Kolubara currently cannot produce more than 25,000,000 tons, and that in previous years it also produced more than 31,000,000 tons.

“There is coal, but in previous years little has been invested in opening replacement surface mines, procurement of equipment, as well as revitalization and modernization of old equipment and procurement of spare parts. All this has led to less time and capacity utilization of equipment and backlog above the coal, which is necessary to open and dug up coal “, explains Ignjatović.

The professor points out that currently, especially in the eastern part of the Kolubara basin, there is little open coal and points out that the production from this part has been drastically reduced.

“Coal is of poor quality and requires selective work, separation of coal from tailings, which affects the decline in capacity. This is pronounced in the western part of the basin, but that part of the mine today delivers sufficient quantities of coal within the required quality limits. “when the quantity was” rushed “, so coal of lower quality was often delivered than needed just to meet the required capacities without having to keep in mind the required quality. When the layer of open pit field E is opened, the problems will be solved,” says the professor Ignjatovic.

EPS had major problems in the production of electricity in thermal power plants last winter, and one of the reasons was the poor quality of coal. It was TENT and RB “Kolubara” that were in focus due to unprecedented accidents, especially those in December when the country’s power system collapsed and when a part of the citizens did not have electricity for days. It was determined that due to the burning of poor quality coal, which was wet and soaked in mud, there was a breakdown in TENT.

The events of December led to the dismissal of four executive directors, and then the resignation of the acting director of “Elektroprivreda Srbije” Milorad Grčić, followed by a criminal complaint filed against him by the Ministry of Mining and Energy (MRE). The relevant ministry stated that they have been saying for a year that “public companies in the energy sector are not working properly”, but that the final word on who is responsible for the collapse of TPP “Nikola Tesla” will be given by the police and BIA. In his written resignation, Milorad Grčić accused Minister Zorana Mihajlović of dismantling the entire electricity potential and destroying that sector for the interests of others.

The epilogue so far is that, due to several accidents that have occurred, the domestic energy sector is losing almost a billion euros due to the import of electricity, and that the import of coal is starting at the same time, which will further increase them, Euronews writes.

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