Replacing Russian coal puts Kazakhstan in spotlight
The EU ’ s blanket ban on Russian coal imports has resulted in utilities seeking increased volumes of Kazakh coal via Russia ’ s western ports , but some question the use of these terminals .
By Laurence Walker
While Russian coal has been banned from Europe since 10 August , cargoes continue to leave the country ’ s western coal ports for EU destinations – either directly or via secondary countries , such as Turkey – which has justifiably raised eyebrows within the market .
Ships have left the port of Taman – on the Kerch Strait between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea – for Greece , Slovenia and another unspecified west Mediterranean destination since the embargo was introduced , while at least one has sailed from the Latvian port of Riga for Spain , according to VesselsValue ship tracking data .
Market sources say some of these cargoes could be of coal from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan , which can still be loaded at Baltic or Black Sea ports for shipment to Europe , or in smaller ships to Turkey , where volumes are built up and then shipped in larger vessels to more distant destinations .
Official rail schedules show that around 1.43m tonnes of Kazakh
32 coal was scheduled to be taken by train to Russian ports in September , for seaborne export , of which 0.36m tonnes were due to head to western Europe . This compares with 1.04m tonnes and 0.96m tonnes railed to seaports in August and July , respectively , of which 0.51m tonnes and 0.58m tonnes were shipped to western Europe , according to the data obtained from a Moscow-based trading house .
Kazakh coal is generally of higher quality than Russian export coal , with lower ash and sulphur content but a similar calorific value , so it is in relatively well sought after by European power generators . An analyst with a European coal-trading firm says Kazakhstan is likely to supply Europe with as much as 10m tonnes of coal this year , although he notes rail plan data is often 50 % higher than actual exports .
“ In past years , Kazakhstan has exported 1-3m tonnes / year to Europe but this year it will be maybe 8-10m tonnes ,” agrees a Switzerland-based coal trader , with close links to the CIS coal market .
Montel Magazine 3 – 2022