Big disappointment in the global natural gas industry this week, with majors Total and Eni coming up largely dry in a much-anticipated well offshore Cyprus.
But elsewhere things are turning extremely bullish for natgas. With one of the world’s fastest-emerging energy consumers scrambling to get all the supply it can.
Local media reported this week that India’s power generators are seeing a sudden surge in natgas buying because of an “acute” shortage in the country’s go-to energy fuel: coal.
After enjoying years of ample coal supply, India’s power sector has seen inventories slip drastically into the red in recent months. With ten major power plants classified as “critical”, with less than seven days of coal stocks — and five of those being “super critical” with less than four days of coal supply.
And that drastic shortage has reportedly turned these generators to natural gas in a major way.
Sources said India’s generators have purchased 10 million cubic meters (350 million cubic feet) during “the last couple days”. Indicating energy producers are getting desperate in keeping their operations in business amid the coal shortage.
This potentially has long-term implications for global natural gas. Because of a peculiar feature of India’s energy landscape: a fleet of unused gas-fired plants. Related: The $10 Trillion Resource North Korea Can't Tap
India in fact has over 25 GW of installed gas-driven generating capacity. But here’s the thing: 55 percent of that capacity usually never runs. Because it’s “technically stranded” — having no access to natgas feed at commercially-competitive prices.
But the coal crisis is changing the economics here. Power operators are so desperate to keep the lights on, they’re willing to pay the higher prices required to deliver gas to the stranded power plants — causing this week’s major surge in natgas buying.
If the coal shortage persists, that demand could become permanent. Watch for weekly data on coal stocks at India’s power plants, and stats on natural gas usage across India — which could have knock-on effects on imports.
Here’s to un-stranding,
By Dave Forest
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