Coal to play pivotal role in India’s economic expansion

The Minerals Council of Australia welcomes today's release of the governments 'Coal in India' report. It provides an authoritative account of domestic coal production circumstances in India and the overall demand outlook.

While India is already Australia's fourth-largest coal export market, our supply has mostly consisted of metallurgical coal for steel production.  The Government's report details additional opportunities for Australia to become an important supplier of high quality thermal coal.  The total export market was worth approximately at $5.0 billion in 2013/14.

The findings also flatly contradict claims by anti-mining activists that India is turning away from coal. 

The report details a range of issues which have significant implications for Australia both as an economic partner and more specifically as a provider of high quality thermal coal.

India represents a welcome opportunity for Australian producers especially in the medium to longer term. It is a growing economy, has an expanding energy market and Australia is well placed to provide a product to meet those requirements.

Prime Minister Modi has outlined objectives to improve the growth outlook for India including significantly expanding its manufacturing base. Providing access to electricity for 300 million people currently without adequate energy provision is also a major social and economic objective.

Electricity an essential building block of economic and human development accordingly India is now embarking on a large scale effort to increase electricity generation which will include an array of technology options. Coal fired generation remains a centre piece of this expansion, and in 2012 coal fired power represented 71% of electricity generation.

According to the report India's coal fired generation more than doubled in from around 390TWh in 2000 to 800TWh in 2012.

Technology is also set to change the coal generation fleet in India where less efficient sub-critical power plants dominate and from 2017 all new coal fired plants in India will be required to use super-critical technology.

Operating at higher temperatures and pressures these plants are cleaner and produce fewer emissions including CO2. These modern plants are also much better matched to the higher quality and lower ash coal which Australia produces; furthermore these coals are not readily available locally.

India is the world's third largest coal producer but due to a range of internal constraints it also relies on imported coal to meet current and expected demand, and this is especially the case in relation to specified coal for electricity generation.

India represents a significant and growing potential thermal coal market for Australia which grew from only 1.7 Mt in 2013 to 6.7 Mt in 2014. Even at this level it remains a very small market albeit with a significant upside.  To put this into perspective, our largest thermal customer Japan imported 77.7 Mt in 2014.

The positive outlook for thermal coal exports to Indian has also been confirmed by the International Energy Agency, which expects India's coal imports to continue their rising trend, more than tripling by 2040.  Before 2025, India overtakes China as the largest world importer of coal. 

Australian producers are optimistic about the export growth potential to India and welcome the opportunity to help deliver affordable and accessible energy.

We also have the expertise to assist with the efficiency and productivity of Indian mining operations, including the provision of mining equipment and other technology related services.

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