India poised to overtake China as world’s largest coal consumer

India poised to overtake China as world’s largest coal consumer

Indian workers load coal onto trucks at a coal depot on the outskirts of Jammu August 2012.

India is set to overtake China as the world’s largest importer of coal used in power plants, as the country battles chronic power shortages that are crippling its growth while domestic sources of natural gas are being depleted at an alarming rate.

That was the main outcome of the Financial Times’ inaugural Commodities Retreat in Singapore held last week, the newspaper reports (subs. required).

Miners and traders gathered at the convention agree that the country, alongside Korea, is emerging as one of the few bright spots in the 1bn tonne a year seaborne thermal coal industry, FT reports.

India, currently the world’s third-largest consumer of coal, behind China and Japan, has imported 43% more coal than it did a year ago, as demand from power stations and steelmakers increases, data from the World Coal Association shows.

In the year ended March 2013, India imported 20% of its total coal requirements, a number that is expected to grow to 23% by 2017, according to a BP Plc. (NYSE:BP) report.

The demand for power station fuel is estimated to rise 43% to 730 million tons by 2017, while the supply from domestic sources is expected to jump 38% in the same period.

In China instead the future looks more and more like a coal-free one. While the nation remains the biggest user of coal, Beijing is struggling with high pollution levels brought on by an excessive use of thermal power plants, and has been taking drastic measures to reduce its reliance on coal and shift to cleaner sources like natural gas for its energy needs.

Image by Biswarup Ganguly, Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0