Projects financed by Coal India to help evacuate Fuel in Odisha, Jharkhand on track

Coal availability to improve with key rail projects on ECR’s Dhanbad Division, ECOR’s Sambalpur Division, ER’s Howrah Division and SER’s Chakradharpur Division

KOLKATA: Demand for coal may be growing slower than anticipated, but supplies will improve further this fiscal as two key rail connectivity projects — which were pending for decades — in Odisha and Jharkhand are set to be operational, either partially or fully.

Absence of the key evacuation infrastructure was a major reason behind the low growth in coal availability and the resulting coal crisis during 2009 and 2014, when the capacity of India’s coal-based thermal electricity generation nearly doubled.

According to available information, excepting a 0.5 km stretch — where work is halted due to land hassles — the 53.5-km Jharsuguda-Barapali rail link in Odisha is ready. The project is financed by Coal India (CIL).

Sources in CIL are hopeful that the line will be operational this fiscal, as the Odisha government has promised to clear the squatters and pave way for evacuation of fuel from the vast Ib Valley reserves in Sundergarh district.

Originally scheduled for completion in 2009, the project has undergone nearly four-fold increase in cost to approximately ₹2,200 crore. The Narendra Modi government promised to complete it by June 2016.

The rail link will improve coal availability by 20 million tonnes (mt) per annum in the near run. Half of the projected increase will come from Vasundhara which is now producing at nearly half the capacity due to lack of evacuation infrastructure.

In the long run, the project may help increase coal production by nearly 80 mtpa by helping monetise idle reserves like Siarmal (50 mtpa), Kuldah (15 mtpa), Garjandhal (10 mtpa), Vasundhara West (8 mtpa) and others.

The implementation of Tori-Shibpur rail link (which is the first phase of the proposed 91 km Tori-Shibpur-Hazaribagh link) is moving at a slower pace.

The line will help coal movement from two large assets at Magadh and Amrapali which can produce 30-50 million tonnes of fuel a year. Both the assets are now underutilised.

The East Central railway has already connected Ranchi with Tori. Going by the pace of work, the line is expected to reach Bhalubasa — midway between Tori and Shibpur — by the end of this year.