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MENA emerges as new centre for solid fuel imports

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Dry Bulk,

The Middle East and North Africa is emerging as a new centre for solid fuel import demand growth, according to speakers at the recent Coaltrans World Coal Leaders Network in Lisbon Portugal, with Turkey and Egypt the expected to boost imports as both look to wean themselves off an over-reliance on natural gas.

Egypt in particular is looking to transition to solid fuels in its industrial sector, as well as building coal-fired power generation. The country has been traditionally dependent on domestic natural gas production but has suffered shortages of this fuel in recent years and production was hit after the political uprisings ion 2011 and uncertainty that has followed.

Speaking in Lisbon, Waleed Abouraya, President and CEO of MEBP, a supplier of solid fuels, said that 15 of Egypt’s 27 cement plants had made the switch from natural gas to solid fuels after the government allowed the move in 2014. Egypt has substantial cement production capacity, around 60 million t, with plans to raise that to 90 million t – a move that would increase cement industry demand for solid fuels to around 10 million t.

In addition to cement, Egypt’s substantial brick industry – also hit by the shortages of natural gas in the country – has been transitioning to solid fuels – currently (and illegally) petcoke but Abouraya noted a preference among industry leaders for using hard coal.

Meanwhile, the government is currently in discussions to build three new coal-fired power plants – again as an attempt to diversify from the traditional reliance on natural gas. Despite logistics issues (Abouraya indicated the plants may need to construct their own ports to channel imported coal) and issues around electricity prices, Abouraya said the plants could be online over the next four to five years.

Overall, Abouraya said Egyptian demand for solid fuel imports could be 4 million t in 2017, rising to 10 million t by 2020. This switch might also see the restart of coal production in Sinai – although capacity there is limited to around 1 million t.

Meanwhile in Turkey, despite governmental support for the domestic coal industry, import-reliant power plants are still under construction and expected to increase Turkey’s demand for imported coal from its current level of 17.6 million t to around 24 million t in 2026, according to Dr Sirri Uyanik, CEO of Isken coal-fired power plant.

The Turkish cement sector is also increasing its use of solid fuels, consuming 4 million t of petcoke and 3 million t of hard coal in 2015, said Umit Cetin, Assistant General Manage of Purchasing and Logistics at cement producer, Cimsa. Cimsa are currently planning to add six new cement plants with demand for 1 million t of additional solid fuels.

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