This content is not available in your region

Short on coal barge supply, Germany's Bergkamen A shutters

By Reuters

FRANKFURT – Bergkamen A, a 715 megawatt (MW) coal-burning power plant in western Germany’s Unna district, will close until Oct. 4 as it is running short of fuel replenishments via river barges, illustrating local fallout from global coal tightness.

What looks like a standard market notification usually only of interest to power traders in the European wholesale market is a fresh example of exceptional conditions in energy.

Prices of electricity, coal, gas, oil and carbon emissions permits are sky-rocketing due to global fundamental and weather factors, while transport supply chains are sometimes struggling to meet post-COVID industry demand.

Several energy retailers in Europe have gone bust and industry analysts whisper that manufacturers could consider temporary plant closures if the problems persist.

Hard coal for northern European delivery in 2022 trades at its highest since September 2008 at $164.1 a tonne.

Bergkamen A, out of 24,000 MW of German hard coal capacity, was offline for a number of days four times in September, a press spokesman for power plant operator Steag said.

He confirmed mandatory notices by plant operators on the transparency site of power exchange EEX, which informs traders of short-term supply.

“Because of the strong gas prices, there is a run on coal worldwide and at our concrete location, that means a double bottleneck,” he said.

“Not only is coal in higher demand, but so are barges for river transport of all sorts of commodities,” he said.

Unlike most competitors’ coal-fired plants that can switch to transport via trains to refill their inventories, Bergkamen A is not linked up to rail.

The problems should ease by next week, but generally it was advisable to remain watchful of the situation, the spokesman said.

Unfavourable wind speeds this year have led to the country’s turbines underperforming, meaning conventional electricity, earmarked to be gradually phased out, has been called upon more often.