KIEV, Feb. 13 – Ukraine’s energy ministry Monday called on the government to declare a state of emergency in the energy sector after coal supplies from territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists were blocked by activists.
“The ministry will initiate declaring the emergency,” Ihor Nasalyk, the energy and coal industry minister, said at an emergency meeting. “A draft resolution has been prepared and will be submitted to the Cabinet in the near future.”
The activists blocked supplies of anthracite coal from Luhansk region late January and recently blocked supplies from the Donetsk region. Both regions are the main source of anthracite for mainland Ukraine’s fossil fuel-burning power plants.
Coal reserves at Ukraine’s coal-burning power plants decreased 2.8% over the past seven days, or by 79,000 metric tons, to 1.530 million mt as of February 12, compared with 1.609 million mt as of February 5, UkrEnergo, a company that runs the country’s power grid, reported Monday.
Ukraine’s stocks of anthracite coal, which is widely used by the country’s power plants, fell 1.9% to 842,000 mt as of February 12, compared with 858,000 mt as of February 5.
Reserves of other types of thermal coal in the country decreased 8.4% on the week to 688,000 mt from 751,000 mt, UkrEnergo said.
The reserves of anthracite coal is currently enough to last for 40 days as power plants use coal to produce power at many power plants across Ukraine, according to UkrEnergo.
“If anthracite coal supplies remain to be completely blocked, the reserves will be enough to last for 40 days,” Vsevolod Kovalchuk, the acting director of UkrEnergo, said at the emergency meeting. “Once these reserves are gone, we will not be able to avoid rolling power blackouts.”
Kovalchuk said that power plants are using 20,000-30,000 metric tons/day of anthracite, but that figure may increase if air temperature drops further.
Some power plants may run out of coal stocks as early as in two weeks, while some of the plants may be able to operate longer, up to 100 days, Kovalchuk said.
The state of emergency will give the ministry power to take coal from some plants and ship it to other plants that need it most, he said.
Also, as part of the state of emergency, the ministry will get funds to buy coal from overseas markets, such as from South Africa and perhaps the U.S., a source at the ministry said Monday.
The problem, however, is that in the best case coal imported from S Africa and the U.S. may reach Ukraine in 50-55 days, or two weeks after the country’s all coal stocks are expected to run out, the source said.
In late January, two dozens of activists, mostly Ukrainian army veterans led by several lawmakers, blocked the Luhansk-Popasne rail line to stop the coal trade between Ukraine and the separatists.
However, the situation escalated after several more rail lines had been blocked earlier in February in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, effectively suspending any imports of coal from pro-Russian territories.
The activists said the lines will be unblocked only after the separatists return all Ukrainian prisoners of war currently held by the separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk. (nr/ez)