Over 10 months of 2021, Europe increased sea shipments of coal from Russia by 30 %
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From January to October 2021, the trans-shipment of coal in European ports rose by 18 % (to 104.6 million tonnes) compared to the same period of 2020, according to data from Refinitiv. Sea shipments from Russia climbed even more sharply – by 30 % (up to 39.7 million tonnes).

    Russia’s share in European sea-based shipments of imported coal in this period rose from 34 % to 38 %.

    The driver behind this rise was an increase in coal-fired power generation occurring as the European economy undergoes a recovery. The GDP of European countries contracted by 6.3 % in 2020 but is to rise 5 % in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund’s October forecast. As a consequence, over the first 10 months of 2021, the EU’s total power production was boosted by 4 5 % – and production at coal-fired stations by 13 %.

     The gap is explained to a great extent by gas shortages in Europe – as of 1st October 2020, gas storage facilities were filled to 94.8 % of capacity. That that figure dropped to 74.8 % as of 1st October 2021, according to the association Gas Infrastructure Europe.

    And for the same reason the share of gas-fired power generation in the EU over the same period declined from 20 % to 18 %, while the share of coal-fired generation climbed from 13 % to 14 %, according to the British research centre Ember.

    In the beginning of 2021, the price of a tonne of CO2, linked to the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) on the ICE exchange system of trade in carbon units was valued at $34, whereas in mid-November, the price stood at $69. 

    Reciprocally, under the norms of European carbon regulations, any operator of a coal-fired power station exceeding the limits on CO2 emissions is obliged to purchase carbon units proportional to the surplus emissions.

    And that, in turn, affects the unit operating costs of power generation. In 2020, in the European Union those costs were 8 percent higher for owners of coal-fired power stations than for owners of gas-fired stations ($90 compared to $80 per KWh of generation, according to figures from the International Energy Agency). But the gas shortages in Europe meant that gap was of secondary importance.

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