New Delhi: Coal India, the world's biggest producer of coal, may import as much as 20 million tonnes of the fuel next fiscal to comply with orders to increase supplies to power utilities and avoid paying penalties.
The company scrapped a proposal to import coal this year as it dipped into high inventory to meet requirement of power plants. But next year, when more power plants are likely to be commissioned, it will revive plan to import coal.
"If we produce 492 million tonnes of coal as projected, about 20 million tonnes of import will be required to meet the 80 percent (of commitment quantities to power producers)," Coal India Chairman and Managing Director S Narsing Rao told in an interview here.
The company has to meet at least 80 percent of supplies committed in the new Fuel Supply Agreement (FSAs) signed with power firms or face penalties. Any quantity that it is unable to meet from domestic production is to be compensated through imports.
The Maharatna firm has an inventory of 71 million tones as of now. Next year, it aims to produce 480-482 million tonnes of coal and dip into inventories for another 10 million tonnes or so. Current year supplies were almost 470 million tonnes.
CIL had anticipated a import of 12-13 million tonnes in the current fiscal. Coal India said that if the company is able meet the level of 492 million tonnes next year and if power plants do not come up as expected, the need for imports might be even less in next fiscal.
Rao said the company did not import any coal in the current fiscal on account of delays in execution of some power plants and it met an average of 91-92 percent of the committed volumes to power plants.
"There was no need for us to import (coal) in 2012-13," he said. "Overall our supplies to the power plants as on February 28 is 91 percent. We have made available coal in adequate quantities ... and we assure that by the end of March 31, 2013 also we will be post 92 percent," he said.     

CIL board had last year reached a consensus on supplying a minimum of 80 percent of the contracted quantity of the fuel to power firms, meeting 15 percent through imports.
A total of 143 fuel supply pacts are to be signed by CIL till 2014-15 in respect of identified power projects of 60,000 MW capacity.
These utilities have been assured for coal supply during 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-17), according to an official document.
Of these, 92 FSAs are to be signed by this month-end. So far, 55 power companies have entered into FSA with CIL, which accounts for over 80 percent of the domestic coal production.
India's coal imports, which shot up to 100 MT from April to December last year, will reach 185 MT by FY'17.


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