News in brief

ONGC CMD wants energy strategy

ONGC CMD Sudhir Vasudeva reckoned that countries with a significant energy appetite like India need to chalk out a long-term strategy to address its energy security concerns. He said that this approach is needed as vast changes have effected the hydrocarbon industry in recent years. He made these remarks during the Petrotech 2014 curtain raiser event, ‘The Leadership Conclave,’ held in Delhi. The event was inaugurated by Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Dr M Veerappa Moily. The theme for Petrotech 2014, being organised by ONGC, is, "Vision 2030: Global Energy Basket – Challenges & Opportunities." Vasudeva also highlighted the importance of efficiency of energy production and consumption for the country’s ambitious goal of energy self-dependency by the year 2030.

Torrent Power to get gas from Petronet

Private power producer Torrent Power will directly buy natural gas from Petronet LNG to feed its station.

“Torrent Power is now going to source gas directly. It has laid an independent pipeline connected to Dahej LNG terminal,” said A.K. Balyan, Chief Executive Officer, Petronet.

Petronet is an importer of natural gas and currently operates two terminals at Dahej and Kochi. “Torrent has asked for small volumes initially at around 0.05 million tonnes. The supply will start any moment," Balyan told the media. The Government has lifted the customs duty on imported gas for power sector to facilitate fuel for gas-starved power stations. Imported gas is about three times more expensive than domestic gas, barring companies using it for electricity generation.

Balyan said that Petronet has spoken with Andhra Pradesh power producers such as GMR, GVK, Lanco to sell gas. “We have given them indicative prices and asked them to examine if it works out for them,” Balyan said. Andhra Pradesh has nearly 6,000 MW of gas-based stations stranded due to non-availability of domestic gas. The worst-hit plants in the country include Tata Power’s Rithala, Torrent Power’s Sugen, GVK Gautami Power, GMR Kakinada, Konaseema Gas Power Ltd and Lanco’s Kondapalli unit.

Recently, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, said that his Ministry is taking a five-phase strategy to fire the gas-starved power plant.

NTPC Moots Stranded Power Plant Takeover

Banks have come to us with proposals to take over projects,” NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury said recently. A number of private projects, which have become non-performing assets (NPAs) to lenders, have been offered to NTPC. Sources said banks were looking for buyers for LancoInfratech’s 1200 megawatt (MW) Udupi project and the Amarkantak unit, among others. NTPC plans to use part of its cash reserves of over Rs 18,000 crore for acquisitions and to buy coal mines. “We are carrying out due diligence for a few such stranded power plants which have been offered,” Choudhury said. Asked if the PSU was trying to bail out the stressed power sector, Roychoudhury said, “No decision has been taken on whether we would buy them. We would look at super-critical power assets with capacity above 500MW. We are looking at assets, which have fuel linkages and all approvals in place, with equipment lasting for at least 40 years and compatible with the machinery in our plants." NTPC is no longer restricting itself only to assets constructed by BHEL.

CERC returns Parekh panel report on Adani, Tata Power

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has returned the recommendations submitted by a high-level panel headed by Deepak Parekh that proposed increasing tariff for imported coal-based thermal stations of Tata Power and Adani Power.

“The report is sent back to the panel because it was not signed by all stakeholders,” a Government official privy to the development said. Only two members had signed the reports.

This move by the electricity commission may further delay revision of electricity tariffs from stations run by Tata Power (4,000 MW), and Adani Power (4,620 MW), at Mundra in Gujarat.

Last month, the Parekh panel submitted two separate reports for the respective private power producers. These were signed by only two members – Deepak Parekh and ArundhatiBhhattacharya, Managing Director of SBI Capital Markets Ltd, who was part of the panel as independent financial analyst.

The members who did not sign included representatives from both Adani Power and Tata Power, State Government nominees as well as discoms of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

According to industry watchers, the States may have to get the recommendations approved from their respective Cabinets. This is done to prevent any legal hurdles if CERC accepts the recommendations leading to tariff hike but the States oppose it.

Coal India Ltd to set up 16 washeries

State-run Coal India Ltd has decided to set up 16 washeries in its various subsidiaries to improve its quality.

The company will set up the washeries with 92 million tonnes per annum capacity in four states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, an official statement said.

The washeries will reduce the quantity of ash and other irrelevant components from coal and make it as competitive as imported coal, the statement said.

Presently, the company has 17 washeries of 39.40 million tonnes per annum capacity.

CIL Signs FSAs with 16 Pvt Power Projects

In a major relief to the fuel-starved power sector, state-run monopoly supplier Coal India Limited has signed agreements to supply coal to sixteen private power projects worth Rs 84,500 crore, with a generation capacity of over 14,000 mega watts or MW.

With these long-pending fuel supply agreements in place, seven of these projects can be commissioned between October and December, while the rest would start power generation between January and September next year. The coal ministry has expedited the signing of these pacts in view of the Centre’s drive to revive investor sentiment by jump-starting large stalled investments. The ministry is pursuing similar fuel supply pacts for nine more power projects worth Rs 41,200 crore. “Fuel supply agreements have been signed by Coal India and its subsidiaries with sixteen projects over the last few days,” a senior power ministry official said, adding that half of these projects are located in Chhattisgarh and two each are in Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal.

The power ministry has identified 122 plants that are waiting myriad clearances, including assured fuel supplies, and sought the help of a special cell in the cabinet secretariat set up to resolve last mile hurdles holding up investment plans.

“The development is significant as no private sector power project has got coal linkages since 2009,” said a senior government official. Project developers who can finally start commercial operations thanks to this development, include GMR Energy, Lanco, Adani Power, DB Power and the Avantha group.

The coal ministry had sought an extension till September 6 for signing fuel supply agreements, that was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Investments in August.

Coal India misses growth targets narrowly

Coal India Ltd. (CIL) has clocked a growth rate of 2. 7 per cent in production, and 3.6 per cent in offtake in the first five months of 2013-14. However, with respect to both parameters, performance was marginally short of targets.

In a stock exchange filing, the company said that in August, its offtake, at 35.5 million tonnes, was 99 per cent of the target set for the month.

On a cumulative basis, however, target fulfilment was a tad lower at 98 per cent while the offtake growth rate stood at 3.6 per cent. In respect of output, CIL’s seven subsidiaries produced 167.3 million tonnes of coal in the first five months, which represented a 97 per cent target fulfilment and a 2.7 per cent growth rate.

CCIL Chairman S Narsing Rao said that although the company was lagging behind its targets, he was confident that the year’s output and offtake targets would be hit.

“It is still doable, although the asking rate has become 7.25 per cent now… but we have seven months still to go,” he said.

Coal stocks stood at 36 million tonnes at August end, indicating a drawdown of 31 million tonnes since April.

Rake availability has been satisfactory, Mr. Narsing Rao said.

Coal ministry to auction unexplored blocks by January

The coal ministry has said that it would auction off unexplored coal blocks by January and successful bidders would be given 'Letter of Comfort' by the environment ministry to minimise hurdles for them.

Addressing a roundtable on coal mining organised by industry chamber CII, coal secretary SK Srivastava sought to allay the apprehensions of prospective bidders saying there would also be an exit route without any penalty after a period of two years, if the requisite clearances fail to materialise.

He told the participants that the general agreement within the coal ministry is on production-linked payment, but the Cabinet would take a final call on the matter. Over 20 coal blocks with nearly 3 billion tonne reserves would be offered to cement, power and steel companies for captive use. The comfort letters are a provisional clearance for the blocks but fall short of being a legally enforceable document —a compromise worked out at the behest of Pulok Chatterji, principal secretary to the Prime Minister.

With a view to supplementing Coal India's output, the finance ministry has commenced a pilot project to draft the modalities of bidding documents for selection of mine-developers and operator for certain mines of the company.

On the issue of signing fuel supply agreements (FSAs), Coal India has executed 140 FSAs out of the targeted 170 for enabling generation of 78,000 MW capacity. CIL chairman S Narsing Rao said for some companies, there are issues which are impacting singing of the agreements.

NTPC eyes cheap japanese loans

NTPC is eyeing Japanese loans and has plans for a local Indian currency bond offering, as it looks to tie up funds to fuel its expansion plans. As of now, the company is looking to raise only $400-$500 million in overseas loans in the current financial year, compared with its foreign borrowings of $750 million in the previous fiscal as the cost of foreign loans has increased recently. "We see that Japanese loans are cheaper than dollar ones at present, and if the current market conditions continue, we could see borrowings from Japan increase,” said GK Sadhu, executive director, finance. The company currently has $3 billion in foreign debt and with its sovereign rating, it doesn’t face difficulty in picking up overseas borrowings. “Banks are very keen to lend to us, given our financial strength, NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury said. NTPC has plans to raise R1,750crore through a INR tax-free bond later this fiscal and is confident in generating interest in its offering. The company’s capex might slightly exceed its R22,000-crore target for the current fiscal. It is now expected to come be at R22,296crore. NTPC, which has an installed capacity of 41,184 MW, has a long-term target of achieving 1.28 lakh MW of power generating capacity. For FY14, the company plans to add 1,875 MW to its installed capacity, including renewable energy projects.

GAIL pipeline can cause unrest: TN

The Tamil Nadu Government has said that the proposed gas pipeline project of GAIL (India) Ltd could spark farmers’ unrest and large scale law and order problem in the State.

The State Government made this point in the Madras High Court in response to a writ petition filed by GAIL challenging the State’s decision not to allow the pipeline to traverse agricultural lands and asking instead it should be laid along national highways.

In its counter affidavit filed today, the State Government said that it had passed the order after considering the grievances of landowners, farmers and GAIL’s comments, made in court-ordered public hearings. An independent farmers association has also impleaded itself in the case.

The association contended that the project affects the livelihood of farmers and threatens the safety of dwellings in the vicinity of the project. GAIL had approached the Court on April 25, challenging the State’s order of April 2, on re-aligning the portion of Kochi-Kootanad-Bangalore-Mangalore gas pipeline. Over 310 km of the 1,146-km pipeline passes through seven districts in the western part of Tamil Nadu.

HPCL refinery blast toll rises to 25

The toll in the HPCL Visakha refinery accident went up to 25 . A blast and fire occurred in the cooling tower of the refinery on August 23.

According to a HPCL press release, about 60 per cent of debris-shifting from the accident site to designated location is completed. A total compensation amount of Rs 4.8 crore has been handed over to the District Collector so far. Eight contract workers are currently undergoing treatment in private hospitals here.

The condition of seven workers undergoing treatment at the National Burns Centre in Mumbai is reported to be stable. A delegation of the CPI(M) submitted a memorandum to collector Solomon Arokiaraj and sought the intervention of the district administration in getting a judicial inquiry instituted into the accident.

Power Grid sticks to its Rs 16000 cr borrowing plan

State-run Power Grid Corporation will go ahead with its Rs 16,000-crore borrowing programme for this financial year, notwithstanding the present difficult market conditions, a top company official said.

'We have already raised close to Rs 9,000 crore through a mix of instruments like ECB (External Commercial Borrowing), bonds and loans from multi-lateral funding agencies like World Bank and Asian Development Bank,' the official said.

The company will wait for at least a month before it goes ahead with its plans for the rest of the Rs 7,000 crore borrowing, he said.

ECB is not a preferred option at present, as the rupee's exchange rate is very high and the company will wait till the RBI's monetary policy next month, the official said.

Meanwhile, the company's assets have jumped to a whopping Rs 85,000 crore from Rs 50,000 crore in 2011-12. It plans to breach the Rs 1,00,000-crore mark by the end of the 12th Plan period (2012-17) by commissioning more projects, he said.

The assets include various transmission networks (towers and sub-stations).Besides its borrowing plans, Power Grid Corporation also has plans for a follow-on-offer. The Board of Directors earlier this month had approved the FPO (follow-on offer) proposal by raising 15 per cent of the fresh equity of the existing paid-up share capital.

'We are hoping at current levels the FPO will fetch us close to Rs 7,000 crore,' the official added. The funds raised will be used for expansion plans, including transmitting power to the tune of 75,000 MW by 2017. He further added that the proceeds of the FPO will be utilised towards the company's expansion plans.

But the final decision for the FPO will be taken by the government. This is the second time that Power Grid would be going for an FPO, after doing the same in November 2010.

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