Factbox: Europe ramps up coal imports as energy supply fears grow

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LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) – European buyers have had to temporarily put aside their green aspirations in a rush for coal as the region’s energy crisis worsens, boosting shipments from Australia, America South, Colombia and South Africa while tightening the global market.

Russia has resumed pumping gas through its biggest pipeline to Germany after a 10-day outage, allaying some of Europe’s immediate supply fears, but not enough to end the threat of rationing to deal with possible winter shortages.

The European Union has asked member states to reduce gas consumption by 15% until March as an emergency measure.

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Here are some details on coal imports into Europe.

REPLACE RUSSIA

Russia supplies 70% of all European imports of thermal coal, which is used in electricity generation, but this supply is due to be replaced from mid-August, when an EU ban on imports of Russian coal will come into force.

Thermal coal is considered one of the most carbon-intensive energy sources and Europe had weaned itself off the fuel to meet pollution regulations and climate targets.

Germany is trying to extend the life of 10 gigawatts (GW) of mothballed coal capacity until March 2024.

“Poland, and to a lesser extent Germany, can replace the use of gas with gas-fired power plants by operating coal-fired power plants at full capacity, provided that enough coal is available,” the Commission said. ING bank in a report.

Analysts say thermal coal imports from the 27-member EU bloc plus the UK will be 43% higher next year than this year, releasing 10m tonnes of CO2 extra in the atmosphere.

Certain qualities of Russian coal have been favored by European buyers. Producers such as Australia, the United States, Colombia and South Africa can supply these qualities, but may not be able to completely fill the gap due to domestic demand and global competition for supplies.

SUPPLY SOURCES

According to Seabourne data based on ship tracking by shipping broker Braemar, European countries imported 7.9 million tonnes of thermal coal in June, more than doubling year-on-year, although nearly 2 million tonnes less than in April and May.

Imports from Colombia reached 1.2 million tonnes in June, up from just 287,000 tonnes in June last year, despite heavy rains that dampened production, Braemar analysis showed.

Purchases of Australian thermal coal from Europe have continued to increase in recent months. In June, imports of thermal coal totaled 1.1 million tonnes, the highest level on record.

Imports from the United States in June reached 618,000 tons, up 27.9% year-on-year, but down 62.7% month-on-month and the lowest level since January.

Some 854,000 tonnes arrived from South Africa in June against no shipments in June last year as miners continued to ease rail constraints in the country.

Data from shipping and commodities data platform Shipfix showed there had been separately steady growth in imports from Indonesia in recent weeks – a previously less active source of European imports – and highlighted the stock rush.

Shipfix data also indicated imports from African producers, which are small global suppliers, including Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria.

DROP IN RUSSIAN IMPORTS

Russian imports to European countries have already started to fall and reached 2.3 million tons in June, the lowest level in the past 12 months, according to Braemar data.

According to a separate analysis by Shipfix, there were no new orders for the week of July 18 to transport coal from Russia to Europe, underscoring the ban which is already starting to bite.

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Reporting by Jonathan Saul, editing by Nina Chestney and Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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