The coal demand for electricity production is always the main factor for consideration when planning the coal industry program. However, the high demand for electricity, which goes beyond all expectations, has spoiled the programming.
According to the Vietnam Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin), the coal output needed to run thermopower plants in the power network development plan No. 7 (for the period of 2011-2020, with the vision until 2020) would be increasingly high.
It is estimated that by 2015, Vietnam would lack 15 million tons of coal and the amount would be fed by imports. From 2020 onwards, Vinacomin will put into operation the Red River coal basin.
Pham Manh Thang, General Director of the Energy Directorate under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, has anticipated that the coal run thermopower plants would gobble up a very huge amount of coal in the next 20 years.
The power network development plan No. 7 shows that 46 power plants would become operational in 2011-2020, which would consume 77 million tons. Meanwhile, domestic coal output would satisfy the demand of 21 plants, providing about 29 million tons of coals.
This means that the other 25 plants would have to use import coal, estimated at 48 million tons.
By 2030, domestic coal production would be able to provide 31 million tons out of the total amount of 160 million tons needed for 70 power plants. As such, the imports in the period are believed to reach 130 million tons.
The coal industry development program compiled by the Ministry of Industry and Trade has quickly been broken due to the overly high demand from power plants.
The ministry has said that Vietnam would focus on exploiting the potentials of the Northeast coal basin. The commercial exploitation of the Red River coal basin would depend on the trial exploitation, while the coal from the basin would be put into calculation from 2020 with the expected output of 0.5-1 million tons of merchandize coal.
Besides, Vietnam would also spend money to build new mines with the capacity of 3 million tons per mine per annum on the areas which are under the trial exploration.
By 2015, investments would be made to upgrade the productivity of the 61 existing mines, and build up 25 new more mines to churn out 55-58 million tons.
The new coal development program has pointed out that a huge capital amount of 317,736 billion dong would be needed by 2020 to fulfill the tasks, which means that Vietnam would spend 35,304 billion dong a year for the plan implementation.
Though Vietnam is considering importing coal to serve domestic thermopower plants, it would still keep exporting high quality coal, which Vietnam still does not need for the immediate time.
Vu Thanh Lam, Deputy General Director of Vinacomin, said the export products are high quality products with high sale prices. The group plans to export 13.5-14.5 million tons of coal in 2012, while the total output is expected to reach 45.5 million tons, and 31-32 million tons would be reserved for domestic consumption.
By 2015, Lam said, Vinacomin would still export 3 million tons of coal a year.
However, Nguyen Khac Tho, Deputy General Director of the Energy Directorate, has pointed out that the coal pricing policy would decide the output. Currently, Vinacoal still has to sell coal at the prices lower than the production costs to power plants.
The current prices are just equal to 57-63 percent of the production cost in 2010 and 51-55 percent of the production costs in 2011.