Serbia, EPS must import coal from the region and that could take years

, News Serbia Energy

Serbia is getting closer to importing coal in the next few years, although the reserves at its disposal are quite sufficient for the period after 2050. According to expert estimates, we have more than three billion tons of lignite alone, but it is still deep underground, because the mines are not ready for exploitation. The Government of Serbia recently passed a conclusion approving the import of four million tons of coal to the Electric Power Industry of Serbia, which is estimated to be missing by the end of 2023.

The Minister of Mining and Energy, Zorana Mihajlović, stated that Serbia will import coal and electricity by the end of this year and next winter, and announced the stabilization of lignite production in Kolubara in a year and a half.

“Serbia imports electricity every day, 10 to 17 percent of consumption. This is partly related to the overhauls carried out by EPS, but also to everything that happened in the power system last December. There was a collapse and it takes time to “EPS has to invest at least 150m euros in order for surface mines to produce enough coal next year,” Mihajlovic said.

She assessed that the biggest problem in EPS was that in previous years, the mines were not taken into account.

“They did not prepare everything that is needed. It is not just the discovery of the excavation, but to prepare the roads, some mines will be closed by 2024, some will be open, so the matter is in the planned work. The money that is being invested now, which should is invested in this and next year, it is just necessary to prepare the mines, so that in a year and a half they can produce as much as we need, so we are somewhere in the middle, but it is absolutely impossible to do it earlier, “said the Minister of Energy.

Ignjatović: The way out of this situation will certainly take 3 to 5 years

The problem is not recent and is a consequence of the condition of the surface mines in the Kolubara mining basin, so instead of the current 30 million tons that Kolubara used to produce, between 25 and 26 million tons will be delivered this year.

“Surface mines have been late in recent years with the discovery of coal, with the excavation of tailings, so Kolubara is already behind by about 50 million tons in these few years. Mining and geological conditions have drastically deteriorated. Thus, the quality of coal averages 7,000 to 7,500 kilo joules per kilogram, fell below 6,500 to 6,700, which I think was the average last year. production “, explains Professor Dragan Ignjatović, from the Faculty of Mining and Geology in Belgrade.

The Electric Power Industry of Serbia says that the import of coal is being negotiated with the Republic of Srpska, Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as that intensive work is being done to solve the problem.

In order to provide 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. financial resources 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, “they say in EPS.

Professor Ignjatović points out that mining is a slow and inert system, which requires large investments, and adds that it only takes three years to build an excavator and install it.

“So, the way out of this situation will certainly take time, so that short-term period in mining is 3 to 5 years. And I think that this problem will last for about three to five years until the surface mine Field E is fully developed, until open the Radljevo mine and so on, “says the professor.

And the question of how long it will take to solve the problem may be different – how much will it all cost us?

“Most of the coal that will be brought is contracted with the Pljevlja coal mine. The price in the Pljevlja coal mine is around 30 to 35 euros, and if transport costs are added to that, it will not be below 50 euros. Coal from Bosnia and Bulgaria It would be even more expensive. However, one thing should be kept in mind. Given the current prices of electricity in the area, and a higher price would satisfy, it would be cheaper than importing electricity, “said Professor Ignjatovic.

The Brown Coal Mine in Banovići announced a few days ago that they had signed a contract with the Electric Power Industry of Serbia, according to which EPS will deliver 100,000 tons of coal by the end of this year. The Railways of the Republika Srpska also announced that the transport of 256,000 tons of coal per year to EPS has been defined and that the transport of additional coal in the amount of 45,000 tons has been announced. 800 tons of coal will be distributed daily on the Prijedor-Zvornik-Svilajnac route by freight train.

EPS reminds that the only time EPS imported coal was after the 2014 floods. Year when production in “Kolubara” was reduced due to the sinking of mines. Then, in the period from January to March 2015, 352,000 tons of coal were imported from Romania.

Kovacevic: Domestic coal played its role

Energy expert Aleksandar Kovacevic says that Serbia’s coal reserves are of relatively poor quality in every respect – in terms of calorific value and energy content, but also in terms of mechanical access to deposits.

“With the current electricity prices, however, every excavation pays off. The issue of competitiveness is seriously raised. We should not forget that those countries that have access to high-quality coal have a significantly higher economic result,” says Kovacevic.

He points out that Serbia is a traditional importer of quality coal and that it imported it even before the First World War. He notes that this is nothing new and adds that imports are expensive for Serbia, because there is no access to the sea, no port and it cannot be imported by large ships, which is why it has additional costs.

“In that context, domestic coal played a role and enabled the ongoing economic development, but I am afraid it has come to an end. First, large investments are needed, and at the same time we have a global process on climate change, where “There is pressure on the continued use of coal. That pressure is a little weaker now, but only because of the short-term issue of energy security. It will certainly not stop”, Kovacevic said.

The energy expert notes that the second dimension of this problem is the question of what is the alternative and what is it that can create energy security, and what will be favorable for climate change.

“The answer to that question is not simple and to this day it is not complete. What we see as renewable energy sources, there is an argument that it does not provide a sufficient degree of energy security,” says Kovacevic, Euronews writes.