Tata looks at US, Colombia assets

INDIAN utility Tata Power has its eyes on an international prize – significant US, Colombian and African coal assets to feed its planned four-fold spike in generational capacity by 2020.
Tata looks at US, Colombia assets Tata looks at US, Colombia assets Tata looks at US, Colombia assets Tata looks at US, Colombia assets Tata looks at US, Colombia assets

The Mundra ultra mega power project, courtesy Tata Power

Donna Schmidt

Managing director Anil Sardana said at an industry event that it was continuously looking at other international geographies.

Tata is one of many Indian firms looking overseas for coal assets in the wake of a 30% slump in prices, even though the country is said to have a healthy coal reserve base within its own borders.

In August, New Jersey-based collaborative FJS Energy signed a 25-year, $7 billion contract with India’s Abhijeet Group to purchase coal from Kentucky and West Virginia.

In a push to alleviate the country’s crippling supply deficit, state-run miner Coal India has hired consultants to strengthen its presence in the Australia and the emerging coal export centers of Africa, particularly South Africa and Mozambique.

It is the US, however, that seems to be garnering the most attention from Indian coal players.

“There are countries where you can’t be sure that you sign a contract today and tomorrow it is reneged or altered,” Sardana was quoted as saying at the Confederation of India Industry’s Clean Coal Summit.

Dow Jones said Tata’s plan did not just include long-term coal import deals, but also the acquisition of coal mines in the three countries. It is also planning power projects across south Asia, the Asia-Pacific region and in Africa, he said.

No specific mines or regions were indicated.

Tata is one of many Indian firms looking overseas for coal assets in the wake of a 30% slump in prices, even though the country is said to have a healthy coal reserve base within its own borders.

In fact, according to data processed by Dow Jones, India has 114 billion metric tons of proven coal reserves.

Each year, it produces just 550Mt of that. It has turned to import coal because of its inability to meet demand that has, in turn left Indian generators to cut back on operations and plans for expansion.

India’s quandary left Sardana to ask: “What is the country going to do in the years to come if there is no clarity as to how we will add capacities?”

Tata reportedly estimated imports would grow five-fold by 2020 to 50 million tons annually.

It brings in about 10Mtpa at the moment. Its generation capacity is set to jump from 6.09 gigawatts to 26GW during that same timeframe.

The company has already been busy in Indonesia this year, inking a coal supply and equity stake purchase agreement with PT Baramulti Sukses Sarana group in July, and it also holds 30% interest in coal producers Kaltim Prima Coal and Arutmin Indonesia as well as a stake in a trading company of Bumi Resources.

As Sardana told Reuters, there are no more takeover plans for that country.

“We are looking [at coal block acquisition opportunities] from the point of view of logistics, from the point of view of cost and from the point of view of sustainability of contracts," he told Dow Jones.

“We as a utility need coal on a sustainable basis.”

More than half of India’s power is coal-generated.

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