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Ukraine eyes coal imports to bolster fuel stocks: Unrealistic and costly, warn experts

September 02, 2014, 16:21 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, September 02. /ITAR-TASS/. Fuel-hungry Ukraine, facing winter frosts, deprived of Russian gas and with coal stocks enough for just 50 days, is looking to New Zealand, Australia and possibly the United States for new supply.

But this could deal the country's crippled finances another blow, Russian industry experts warn.

Aging coal-fired power plants, fed in the past by fuel from Ukraine's coal-rich but now battle-torn Donetsk region, may need massive investment to burn fuel arriving from different sources - at a higher cost, they say.

“Thermal power plants in Ukraine are designed for a certain type of coal that used to be produced in the east of the country,” said Deputy Director General of the National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach.

"If the imported fuel does not fit into this category, plants must be upgraded, demanding major investment. It is a big question whether the Kiev authorities will manage to do this,” he said.

Ukraine's energy and coal ministry has announced import plans to keep the country warm as cold days draw near.

Infographics Ukraine’s debt burden

Ukraine’s debt burden

August 29, IMF Board of Directors discusses the second tranche for Ukraine amounting to $1.4 billion, which was postponed due to instability in south-eastern Ukraine. The country received the first tranche in April 2014. Earlier, April 30, the IMF approved a two-year credit totaling $17 billion for the support of the economic program. Infographics by ITAR-TASS
Experts polled by ITAR-TASS, though, say the plans are economically unrealistic.

Russian Academy of Sciences' Lev Puchkov says a coal freighter may be set to sail from Australia to Ukrainian ports. The plan is inefficient and expensive, he warns.

“Ukraine has no modern infrastructure to handle imports. The country has always been a powerful coal producer. More than 200 million tonnes was produced there in the Soviet era and now it is four times less,” Puchkov said.

“The future of the energy sector of that country as well as other European states is natural gas produced on its own territory and imported from Russia. There are simply no other efficient options.”

South Africa and Indonesia were also potential suppliers for Ukraine, producing suitable fuel, the academician said. But it would take at least five to seven years to create infrastructure and call for major investment, he added.

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