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Power investors turn backs on Vietnamese coal importers   2009-07-22 - DTCK

Investors of power plants always seek foreign coal sources to import themselves, believing they can come by it cheaper than Vietnamese coal importers.


The Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) has been assigned by the Government to serve as the main importer of coal to provide to thermopower plants to be built. The group has also got a contract on coal providing under which Vietnam can import 3.5 million tonnes a year. However, Vinacomin has not gone any farther in importing coal because no power investor has shown an interest in using its imported coal.


Deputy General Director of Vinacomin Nguyen Chien Thang said that no domestic power investor has contacted Vinacomin in the last year on the import of coal to run the thermopower plants they plan to build. Therefore, the frame agreement Vinacomin signed with PT Berau Indonesia and Maintime Hong Kong which is valid for 10 years has not gone any further since no consumption outlet has been found.


Of course, Vinacomin does not want to import coal for use at power plants it is developing. Imported coal is often two-fold more expensive than domestic coal.


EVN, another big power investor, also does not intend to use coal imports in the power plants it builds. EVN wants to use domestically sourced coal because of the reasonable prices, even for the power plants in the south. Meanwhile, coal is exploited in the north only, and it is costly to carry coal to the south.


The Ministry of Industry and Trade has suggested that EVN use imported coal for running Duyen Hai 1 power plant in Tra Vinh province instead of the previously set plan on using 100 percent domestic coal. However, EVN did not agree to this, citing the reason that the change in the coal source would force EVN to amend the bidding invitation, while the bidding invitation will go out in one month. However, it is said that the actual reason behind the refusal is that EVN wants to use cheaper coal.


Nguyen Van Thanh, Deputy General Director of EVN, said that EVN has tried itself to seek coal sources to import, but it has not signed any contract.


Of course, not only EVN, many other power investors have also been trying to look for coal sources to import to run their power plants. The Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), which plans to build a series of thermopower plants, namely Long Phu (in Soc Trang province), Song Hau (Hau Giang) and Quang Trach (Quang Binh), has also set up a company of its own, specialising in coal import-export to provide coal for power plants.


Private investors, who have investment projects in the power sector, such as Tan Tao Group and Saigon Investment Group, each have specific plans regarding coal sources. Foreign-invested power projects are also trying to come up with coal themselves.


To date, Formosa thermopower plant in Nhon Trach Industrial Zone is the only project that uses 100 percent imported coal and has been operational with the electricity sale prices calculated in accordance with the coal price in Australia. However, this is a special case.


Thang said that importing coal to run power plants proves to be unavoidable in the future. In order to develop all the thermopower plants named in the power plant development programme, it is estimated that Vietnam will lack 9.2 million tonnes of coal by 2013 and 25 million tonnes by 2015.

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