Monday, August 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Bathinda, Ropar plants on critical list
Central Coalfields asks Railways to stop rakes for Punjab
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 25
The coal crisis has worsened in Punjab with two of the Punjab State Electricity Board’s thermal plants at Bathinda and Ropar coming on the critical list of the Union Power Ministry. Their coal stocks have been reduced to below 10 days of generation even as there is no relief in sight with the board’s biggest supplier asking the Railways not to place any rake in its coalfields for loading to Punjab.

The coal stocks at both Bathinda and Ropar plants have come down drastically in the past 10 days even though the board tried to buy time with the coal companies by paying Rs 31 crore on August 21. This is apparently not enough, with its dues to various coal companies a mounting to Rs 111 crore. The board has a monthly billing of around Rs 85 crore.

The board has issued instructions to the Bathinda thermal station to run only three of the four units to conserve coal and make the limited stocks last longer. Similarly, the Ropar plant would be constrained to run only five of its six units from early next week. The coal stock at Bathinda has gone down to 60,000 tonnes which can generate thermal power for nine days. At Ropar, only nine days’ generation supply of 1.83 lakh tonnes is left. The Lehra Mohabbat plant seems to be relatively better off with 19 days of coal stock available with it.

According to Central Electricity Authority norms, thermal stations located far from the coalmines are required to maintain coal stocks of 30 days. In case the stock reduces to less than 10 days, the station comes on the critical list and is monitored on a daily basis by the Ministry of Coals.

Even as the board is in the midst of a crisis, its biggest supplier — Central Coalfields — has written to the Railways, asking it not to place any rake in its coalfields for Punjab. Central Coalfields, which the PSEB owes Rs 69 crore, has sent a copy of the letter to the board management for its information.

Other coal companies, including Bharat Cooking Coal, Dhanbad, to which the PSEB owes Rs 7.5 crore, Western Coalfields, Nagpur, (Rs 25.5 crore), South Eastern Coalfields, Bilaspur, (Rs 4.7 crore) and Eastern Coalfields, Asansol, (Rs 4.5 crore) have also reduced the supply of coal to the board’s thermal plants.

According to information available with TNS, yesterday Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat stations received one rake each and Ropar station received two rakes while ordinarily Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat stations should have received two rakes each and the Ropar station six rakes. Sources said the coal being received by the board was gradually being reduced in the past 10 days, with the Ropar station receiving 1.11 lakh tonnes against the consumption during the same time of 1.88 lakh tonnes. Lehra Mohabbat receiving 38,000 tonnes against the consumption of 63,000 tonnes and the Bathinda plant receiving 28,000 tonnes against 61,000 tonnes.

Following the tight coal position, the board has temporarily shelved its plans to remove the remaining power restrictions on category II consumers. The sources said the three-phase supply to tubewells is also likely to suffer a setback if the situation deteriorates. The demand for power is likely to go up as the paddy crop is at the maturing stage.

Meanwhile, PSEB Engineers Association spokesman Padamjit Singh said the closure of one unit each at Bathinda and Ropar due to fuel shortage would lead to a loss of 72 lakh units per day in the coming week which would be a setback to both the industrial and agricultural sectors. He said the association had sent an appeal to state Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, asking him to give a compensation of Rs 350 crore to the board to enable it to clear the pending coal bills of Rs 111 crore as well as the Railway freight dues of Rs 200 crore.


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