News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: Coal weighed down by uncertainty over future demand; WICET blowouts cause shipment delay; and NSW culls areas open to gas projects.

Lou Caruana

Coal weighed down by uncertainty over future demand

Thermal coal futures prices eased towards a more than seven year low on Wednesday as traders said an uncertain demand outlook in key consumer and producer China weighed on prices, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

European API2 2015 coal futures edged down US15c to $US71.40 a tonne in late afternoon trading. Prices had dipped to $US69.60 on Friday, their weakest since 2007.

Traders said plans for a gradual shift away from coal into gas for energy in China was making the outlook for coal demand unclear.

WICET blowouts cause shipment delay

The Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal has delayed its first coal shipments until late March as disputes continue with contractors over cost blowouts on the Queensland project, according to the Australian Financial Review.

WICET was aiming to start shipping coal by November 24, but has moved the first shipment date back to March 15. CEO Robert Barnes blamed contractors working on the project for the delay.

“Because the contractors – and it’s John Holland mainly – have failed to deliver their part of the contract on time, we’ve had to move the first vessel back until March 15, they’ve been slow in completing their work.”

NSW culls areas open to gas projects

NSW will cancel coal seam gas exploration licences applications covering 43% of the state as part of a new plan to regain community support for a few carefully vetted strategic projects, according to the Australian Financial Review.

In an attempt to take the heat out of the CSG issue before the state election in March, NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts and Deputy Premier Troy Grant released a NSW gas plan that they promised would stop the “cowboy” approach to development but also ensure projects that met higher environmental standards could proceed.

“We have to stop everybody shouting at each other,” Grant said.

However the government has left itself a lot of wiggle room, out of concern it could face a backlash from voters opposed to CSG. Asked if the plan would lead to more CSG development in NSW, Roberts replied: “Not necessarily.”