March 31, 2022
Issue 411  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Having opposed the European Union considering imposing sanctions against Russian coal exports, Germany states it will be free of them within months. A major Japanese trader, Idemitsu Kosan, has also announced it has ceased buying cargoes of Russian coal for Japanese customers. Poland has gone further with its Cabinet approving a draft bill to ban imports of Russian coal. India is going in the other direction, looking to increase its purchases of Russian coal by taking advantage of both the discounted prices and sticking to a deal entered into last year to diversify away from Australian suppliers.

A new policy document by China’s National Development and Reform Commission has clarified that developers involved with overseas coal plants already under construction should proceed cautiously and ensure pollution control equipment is included. For its part, China Shenhua Energy, one of China’s largest coal producers, has unveiled plans to ramp up renewables investments by 2030.

Elsewhere, contoversies over coal deals abound. In India, the owner of a coal trading company is in prison, awaiting trial for selling low-quality coal but overcharging based on falsified coal quality sample reports. In Australia, the corporate regulator is investigating a coal company over whether it knew of allegations of altered coal quality results. In the US, FirstEnergy, the company at the centre of the Ohio coal and nuclear power plant bailout scandal, paid funds to a pro-Trump group and may have contributed as much as US$5 million to it. The New York Times has also delved into the decades-long story of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s interests in a coal company tied to the fate of one dirty old coal power plant.

Bob Burton


How Joe Manchin aided coal and earned millions

At every step of his political career, Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that was the sole customer of his private coal business. Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action, write Christopher Flavelle and Julie Tate in the New York Times.

Crypto throws the coal industry a lifeline

Bitcoin miners turn to dirty coal in the US to satisfy their enormous energy needs, writes Kate Morgan in Sierra.

Coal mining methane emissions threaten emissions targets

Limiting methane leakage from coal mines can be the most effective way to tackle warming in the near term as methane traps much more heat than carbon over a shorter period, writes Chris Campbell in the Financial Times.

What Europe can learn from Portugal’s accelerated coal exit

Portugal’s accelerated exit from coal power offers lessons on managing a transition, the role carbon pricing and renewable investments can play, and how utilities have to be involved in the development of just transition plans, writes Anna Gumbau in EnergyMonitor.

Top News

Poland pushes for a ban on Russian coal imports: The Polish Cabinet has supported a draft bill to ban Russian coal imports. In 2020 Poland imported about 9.4 million tonnes of Russian coal, with about half estimated to have been burnt for household heating and the remainder used in district heating plants or for industry. Russian imports accounted for about 20 per cent of domestic coal use. A shift to heat pumps could reduce the direct use of coal and cut the country’s extreme air pollution. Poland’s declining coal and power industries may also benefit from the ban. (Reuters, ABC News)

Major Japanese trading house suspends Russian imports: The major Japanese energy supplier, Idemitsu Kosan, has suspended buying new coal shipments for its Japanese customers over concern about shipping and payment. Shipping companies have been wary of loading Russian cargoes with sanctions on financial institutions creating uncertainty over payments. Idemitsu said it would look to suppliers from Indonesia and Australia to fill the supply gap. About 11 per cent of Japan’s coal, or 19.7 million tonnes, was supplied by Russian exporters in 2021. Idemitsu has also suspended Russian crude oil imports. (S & P Global)

India looks to double Russian coal imports: India, which has refused to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, has reaffirmed plans to increase metallurgical coal imports. India’s Minister for Steel, Ramchandra Prasad Singh, said India planned to double Russian coal imports. To bypass sanctions restricting transactions with Russian banks and companies, Indian buyers would agree to a rouble-rouble trade. International coal contracts are usually written in US dollars. (Reuters)

Germany blocked proposed EU ban on Russian coal but softens stance: When European Union officials flagged in December 2021 the possibility of sanctions against Russian coal if it invaded Ukraine, Germany objected. Germany’s hard coal imports were about 31.8 million tonnes in 2020, with half from Russia. ENBW, the country’s third-largest power utility, imported 3.6 million tonnes of Russian coal, representing 86 per cent of its hard coal use. Germany may now be softening its position, with the Minister for Economic and Climate, Robert Habeck, saying it would not need Russian coal by autumn 2022. The Ministry of Economics and Technology estimates Russian coal could decline from 50 per cent to about 25 per cent in April as current contracts expire and buyers switch to alternative suppliers. The ministry is also discussing building up coal stockpiles at power plants. (Reuters, Reuters, Clean Energy Wire, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology [German])

Coal generation increased in 2021: The third annual Global Electricity Review by Ember, a climate think tank, estimates electricity demand surged by 5.4 per cent, the fastest growth rate since 2010, outpacing the growth in clean energy capacity. Coal generation increased by nine per cent in 2021, an all-time high and two per cent higher than the previous record set in 2018. Data reveals new coal generation records we set throughout Asia, including China (up nine per cent), India (up 11 per cent) and Pakistan and the Philippines (both up eight per cent). The boom in coal generation drove a seven per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. (Ember [Pdf])

First Energy revealed as donor to pro-Trump group: An investigation by the Maryland Public Service Commission has revealed that Potomac Edison, the Maryland subsidiary of FirstEnergy, paid $163,000 in 2017 to America First Policies, a group founded by some Trump administration officials to promote President Trump’s agenda. The funding coincided with when the Trump administration and the Department of Energy considered measures to bail out coal and nuclear power plants. America First tax records reveal the group received a US$5 million contribution from a donor, leading analysts to suggest it could have been FirstEnergy. In July 2021, FirstEnergy reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Department of Justice prosecutors over its role in the Ohio coal and nuclear bailout scandal. In the agreement, FirstEnergy admitted making a US$5 million payment to an unnamed dark money group connected with an unspecified federal official. (EnergyWire)

Queensland coal mine expansions would cripple state’s climate targets: A report by Lock the Gate, an NGO campaigning against fossil fuel expansion, estimates that approval of new 34 coal mines and proposed expansions would increase direct greenhouse gas emissions by 21 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), up from 20.4 Mtpa in 2019. The mines and proposed additions could result in 855.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over 90 years, the life of the longest proposed mine. The Queensland Government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31 million tonnes by 2030. The increased emissions from coal mines would either breach the target or force other sectors of the economy to embrace greater emissions reductions to offset increased coal sector emissions. Lock the Gate proposes banning the development of methane-intensive ‘gassy mines’. (Brisbane Times, Lock the Gate)

Bosnia and Herzegovina approve an illegal extension of two coal plants: The parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina has voted to allow Elektroprivreda BIH to operate the 200 MW Tuzla 4 and 110 MW Kakanj 5 coal units beyond the deadline set under the Energy Community Treaty. Elektroprivreda BIH decided not to upgrade pollution controls on the units but under the treaty provisions that meant they were only allowed to run for 20,000 hours total between 2018 and 2023. The units were commissioned in 1971 and 1969, respectively. Civil society groups and the Energy Community secretariat warned legislators against ignoring the limits for the plants. Measures to facilitate the development of renewables and shift the connection for Tuzla’s district heating from unit 4 to unit 6 have stalled. (CEE Bankwatch Network)


Australia: National government bought 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal for delivery to Ukraine from Whitehaven Coal, a Liberal party donor.

Australia: Senate overturns regulations allowing the government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency to fund carbon capture and storage projects.

Australia: Corporate regulator charges Griffin Coal, a subsidiary of the Indian-headquartered Lanco Infratech, over failing to file annual reports on time and the lack of a resident director.

India: Chhattisgarh government approves the allocation of 1136 hectares of forested land to expand the Parsa East and Kente Basan coal mine.

South Africa: Anglo American completes exit from South African coal sector with sale of its shareholding in Thungela Resources.

US: Four activists who blocked a coal train heading to the Merrimack Station have been found guilty of criminal and railroad trespass. Another defendant was acquitted.

Companies + Markets

South African court blocks coal mine sale: The Pretoria High Court has ruled in favour of the National Prosecuting Authority’s application to stop the sale of the shares owned by Tegeta Energy and Resources in the Optimum Coal Mine and the Optimum Coal Terminal. The court froze the sale of Tegeta’s interests under the terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. Tegeta is a Gupta family company. The court found that Liberty Coal, which was proposing to buy the Optimum coal assets, was controlled by a former associate of the Gupta family, Daniel McGowan. Tegeta initially purchased the mine from Glencore in 2015 with funds prepaid by Eskom for coal to be supplied to its Majuba power station. Eskom’s involvement with Tegeta was one of the Gupta family deals investigated by the inquiry into state capture. The Optimum assets will now be held by a curator who is charged with seeking a buyer. (Daily Maverick, News24)

China urges caution with Belt and Road projects under construction: A policy paper on China’s Belt and Road Initiative by the National Development and Reform Commission, the top national economic regulator, emphasises the need to stop building new coal plants and urges those involved in projects currently under construction to proceed cautiously. The policy encourages projects under construction to include stronger emission control technologies, including sulphur and nitrogen oxide units, dust control and carbon dioxide capture, use and storage. The policy also supports research into the development of green and low-carbon projects in the steel and other industrial sectors. (National Development and Reform Commission [Chinese])

Chinese steel production hit by COVID restrictions: The introduction of a temporary lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19 in Tangshan, a city that hosts a major coal port and the country’s largest steel mills, has blocked some trucks from delivering coal to major industrial customers. Tangshan hosts the Caofeidian and Jingtang ports coal terminals, with 295 million tonnes a year combined coal handling capacity. The impact of the restrictions is likely to primarily affect steel producers, while coal that arrives by rail for export to elsewhere in the country, goes straight to terminal stockpiles. Coal port workers are living at the port. (Financial Post, Reuters, Global Times)

Shenhua pitches pivot to renewables: China Shenhua Energy said it plans to increase investments in renewable energy from the current 0.08 per cent of total capital expenditure in 2021 to 40 per cent by 2030. Shenhua estimated its direct greenhouse gas emissions were 177 million tonnes in 2021, up from 135 million tonnes in 2020. In 2021 Shenhua had mines with a production capacity of 330 million tonnes, three major coal ports, 37,900 MW of coal plant capacity, an extensive fleet of coal ships, and a network of railways. It also operates the Baotou coal-to-chemicals plant. The company states it will not build new coal plants “after 2025”. The state-owned China Energy Investment Corporation, Shenhua’s parent company, reported 570 million tonnes of coal production across the group in 2021 and over 41,000 MW of renewables projects. (Bloomberg, China Shenhua Energy [Pdf])

Report finds Turkish mines hold great solar potential: A report published by Europe Beyond Coal estimates about half of Turkey’s open-cut coal mines could be converted to utility-scale solar farms. The report estimates 22 mining sites have solar potential of up to 13,189 MW after excluding areas that were too steep, had the wrong aspect or were water-filled lakes. Mine sites have the advantage of existing connections to the electricity transmission system and large land areas not readily available for other uses. The report notes that some places that were previously forested or agricultural land should be returned to their original state. The report also suggests solar projects should include community involvement in the planning and ownership of the projects. (Hurriyet Daily News, Europe Beyond Coal [Pdf])

Uncertainty over Mongolian exports as railway progresses: A research note by Wickams Hill Capital on the Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC) suggests the 270 kilometres long Tavan Tolgoi–Gashuun Sukhait railway line could be completed in July and commissioned in September 2022. The note states that only about 20 kilometres of the line is left to be completed. The line would have an annual capacity of 30 million tonnes of coal a year. The optimism over the rail link stands in contrast to Fitch Ratings which recently downgraded MMC’s credit rating from stable to negative due to restrictions on truck volumes allowed into China. Fitch Ratings made no mention of the rail connection. The number of trucks cleared for discharging cargoes has declined once again after China reimposed restrictions with the emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. China’s unofficial ban on Australian shipments resulted in a shortfall of about 35 million tonnes of metallurgical coal in 2021, with increased imports from Canada, the US and Russia accounting for about 24 million tonnes. (Wickhams Hill Capital, Fitch Ratings)

Auditor suspected mining company knew about coal sample tampering: Ernst and Young (EY) warned the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) that it was aware that at least one executive of the Australian coal mining company Terracom “may have been aware” of the falsification of a coal quality result. EY auditors were allowed to view but not take notes on a copy of an internal PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation into the coal test tampering allegations. ASIC is investigating whether TerraCom, which has coal mines and exploration projects in Australia and South Africa, pressured Australian laboratories to falsify the results of coal quality tests on A$126 million (US$90.5 million) of coal exports. (Australian Financial Review [paywall])

Indian executive detained pending coal result tampering charges: The Madras High Court has remanded Ahmed A R Buhari, the owner of Coastal Energy Private Limited (CEPL), pending a hearing on allegations he overcharged power utilities after submitting inaccurate coal test results. It is alleged Buhari received 5.6 billion rupees (US$74.3 million) on sales of substandard coal to public sector power utilities. Buhari routed the proceeds of the deals through his company in the United Arab Emirates and other entities in Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands, then back as investments into CEPL. (Times of India)


Global Steel Plant Tracker, Global Energy Monitor, March 2022. (The tracker includes the data dashboard and summary data. There are additional details on each plant over 500,000 tonnes of capacity on an individual wiki page.)

The Global Steel Plant Tracker has been updated with coverage expanded from 622 to 957 iron and steel plants and includes over 92 per cent of the world’s operating and developing steel capacity.