Newcastle coal exports down

Newcastle coal exports are down 9 per cent in 2016 year on year, according to the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator.

Coal throughput at for Port Waratah Coal Services has reached 86 per cent of the year to date outbound target rate at an average of 104.5 million tonnes per annum at the end of February.

The inbound throughput rate for Port of Newcastle of 148.9 million tonnes per annum represented 82 per cent of the year to date target. Real figures to the end of February came in at 24.4 million tonnes hauled to port, compared to 26.7 million tonnes in the same period 2015.

At present 12 vessels are in queue, with an average vessel turnaround of 4.2 days, while port stocks sit at 1.133 million tonnes.

Early in January heavy rains caused flooding in the Hunter Valley between Maitland and Newcastle bringing rail haulage to a halt, and forced Port Waratah Coal Services to stop all rail and ship loading operations for two days.

Coal demand slows at Newcastle Ports

Shipping queues have eased at Newcastle, with further shrinkage expected in the coming weeks.

Port Waratah was down to a shipping queue of 13 last night, down from a 23-week high of 22 ships last week, according to the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator.

The Port Waratah shipping queue, which serves as an indicator of export demand, is expected to drop to less than 10 ships at the end of the month.

Port Waratah Coal Services loaded 2.25 million tonnes into 29 ships last week, up from 2.11 million tonnes in the week ending 31 January.

Planned rates for coal delivery were down 627kt, with inbound performance down 607kt on the Declared Inbound Performance, resulting in total losses for the week at 8.3 per cent compared to the expected 7.4 per cent.

Platts reported that rail activities would be suspended for planned maintenance, scheduled over three days from Feb 23.

Declared Inbound Throughput is expected to drop after that date, with 7.6 million tonnes expected for loading in February, to rise again in March to 9.2 million tonnes.

T4 coal loader at Newcastle gains environmental approval

The T4 coal loader on Kooragang Island is a step closer to reality after being approved by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Port Waratah Coal Service's long-awaited loader is set to increase export capacity at Newcastle by 70 million tonnes and the project will now head to the Planning Assessment Commission for an independent review.

Now that the project has been referred to PAC, a further 28 days of public exhibition are expected, including the opportunity for individuals and organisations to provide written submissions and presentations through public hearings.

PWCS CEO Hennie du Plooy said the approval and assessment process for the project was nearing the four year mark.

“We look forward to this next step and the opportunity for an independent review of the proposal and assessment thus far,” du Plooy said.

“Projects of this scale require long lead times for approval and construction. Approval of this project now will position the Hunter Valley coal industry for opportunities that might arise in the future.

“By having a Terminal 4 master plan in place, certainty is created for the industry, businesses, community and government around what will happen on the site.”

The loader has been a contentious issue for Newcastle, drawing criticism from environmental groups, particularly over its dust management claims.

The Hunter Community Environment Centre said it plans to have its case heard at PAC, Necastle Herald reported.

‘‘The community feels the marginal economic return isn’t worth the costs to public health and our environment,’’ spokesman John McKenzie said.

‘‘T4 is a project whose benefits were overstated from the beginning.’’

The project will be subject to strict environmental conditions aimed at mitigating potential air quality impacts.

PWCS spokesman Mark Baker said state-of-the-art technology would be used to comply with the conditions.

‘‘Weather monitoring systems will be used to minimise dust,’’ Baker said.

The company will also create an on-site green and golden bell frog corridor and biodiversity offsets comprising of 851 hectares.

“We understand that dust is a concern for the Newcastle community, and communities around Australia. We also know that NSW has some of the strictest air quality standards in the world and Port Waratah complies with these standards as measured by the recognised and approved methods,” du Plooy said.

Plans to build the T4 loader begun in 2011, when it was identified that more capacity at Newcastle was required to meet future demand.

PWCS says that at peak construction of the T4 Project, the Hunter will be experiencing an injection of $770 million per annum, with over 2,900 direct and indirect jobs.

It says that once the loader is full built it will create over $400 million in business turnover for the local economy.

T4 coal loader in doubt

Hunter Valley miners have told Port Waratah Coal Services that the amount of coal they handle will drop, again putting the T4 loader on Kooragang Island in doubt.

Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) chief Henry du Plooy said coal producers in the region has advised that the fall in demand for coal handling services was due to falls in production as a result of lower prices and higher export costs.

Du Plooy said today PWCS had agreed to accept reduced tonnages.

“The acceptance of these reductions means there is currently no capacity shortfall to be fulfilled through the proposed T4 project,” the company said.

Du Plooy said the decision is a positive and appropriate outcome for the industry in challenging times.

“Coal producers who do not require all tonnages previously contracted for have been able to reduce their exposure to ship or pay obligations while producers who still require greater capacity for coal handling and were expecting to reply upon T4 now have access to exiting capacity, increasing certainty and timing,” he said.

“At a time when the industry is experiencing significant economic challenges, PWCS has also been able to reduce coal handling costs for producers by avoiding unnecessary project expenditure.”

Early last month, du Plooy told reporters at a vineyards coal conference that due to falling demand, the company was looking to expand its existing loader on the island instead of building the T4.

Du Plooy said that coal companies were shipping 20 per cent less coal now than when the deal was struck to build the T4

Du Plooy told the conference the approvals process had added another year to the project, with T4 unlikely to gain approval before 2014.

This means construction would take another three years, with the original operating date being pushed back 2018.

In 2009, Port Waratah was given the opportunity to build a new coal loading terminal, known as Terminal 4 (or T4), as part of a wider long term agreement to service the Hunter's growing coal industry.

However late last year, the company cut the capacity of the T4 coal loader by nearly two-thirds to just 25 million tonnes a year.

Today PWCS said it would continue to seek the development approval for T4.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said delays and uncertainty in mine project approvals have contributed to the decision to accept reductions in tonnages.

“This is proof that the State planning system is hurting the Hunter coal industry and the NSW economy at a time when it is already struggling to remain globally competitive in the face of low prices, a strong Australian dollar and high costs,” Galilee said.

Rio Tinto, part of the consortium that backs PWCS was shocked last month when approval for the expansion of its Warkworth mine was overturned.

Galilee says the decision had led to decreased production estimates.

“Coal is our State’s most valuable export commodity and provides around 85 per cent of our electricity. Global challenges are already hurting the industry. A poor planning system will diminish confidence to invest in NSW, damage competitiveness and jeopardise jobs.”

Greens want coal terminal expansion stopped

The Greens have called on the Senate to block the construction of a fourth coal terminal at Kooragang Island amid growing public health concerns.

Senator Lee Rhiannon told the Newcastle Herald that although her notice of motion was not successful, she was determined to stop the terminal being built.

‘‘Last week’s shocking air pollution results along the Hunter rail corridor should be enough to finally push Labor and Coalition MPs to standing up to coal expansion,’’ she said.

‘‘It is not enough for them to furrow their brows and make concerned noises about the health impact on locals.’’

Rhiannon said she plans to attend a community rally against the coal loader on Saturday.

The Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) said they want the government to stop its assessment of the T4 coal terminal until a dust pollution test was carried out along Hunter’s coal corridor.

Late last year the group handed out 15,000 leaflets to local residents in a bid to stop the new terminal from going ahead.

"This is the biggest decision affecting our quality of life in Newcastle,’’ CTAG spokeswoman Cathy Burgess said.

‘‘A fourth coal terminal will have irreversible impacts on the health of our children and the air we breathe, so we’re letting the people of Newcastle know who is responsible for this important decision.

‘‘In pressing ahead with the assessment of this unpopular development, the NSW government is demonstrating contempt for the people of Newcastle, our environment and our health.”

In 2009, Port Waratah Coal Services was given the opportunity to build a new coal loading terminal as part of a wider long term agreement to service the Hunter's growing coal industry.

This was in addition to the two it already operates – the Carrington and Kooragang Coal Terminals. In 2010 the company began planning the export site's development.

The loader has been a contentious issue for Newcastle, drawing criticism from environmental groups, particularly over its dust management claims.

"Anybody who lives in Newcastle knows there is a blanketing of coal dust in many suburbs close to the coal loaders every day of the year, 365 days," Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield spokesperson John Hayes told The Newcastle Herald.

"There's a widespread view that spraying water and dust on the coal dust piles doesn't do much to suppress dust."

T4 loader shrinks as coal woes continue

 Port Waratah Coal Services has cut the capacity of its T4 coal loader on Kooragang Island by nearly two-thirds to just 25 million tonnes a year.

The cut comes after Port Waratah Coal Services said coal companies advised they no longer expected to ship as much coal, The Newcastle Herald reported.

The announcement comes after Centennial Coal said low prices and high costs had forced it to shut two underground mines, cutting 40 jobs.

PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy said he still expected T4 to be built but the original operating date of 2015 has been pushed back to June 2017.

The company is contracted to ship 124.5 million tonnes of coal this year, but will only likely do 108 million as coal companies in the region slow production.

Du Plooy said the company had originally planned to build a capacity of 70million tonnes, but T4’s first stage would now only handle 25 million tonnes.

Despite the cutbacks, Du Plooy said stage one of the project would still cost $3.5 billion and employ about 1500 people in construction jobs.

Liberal MP Tim Owen has ‘‘applauded’’ PWCS’s decision to cut the size of its T4 commitment in the ‘‘current economic climate’’.

In 2009, Port Waratah was given the opportunity to build a new coal loading terminal, known as Terminal 4 (or T4), as part of a wider long term agreement to service the Hunter's growing coal industry.

This was in addition to the two it already operates – the Carrington and Kooragang Coal Terminals. In 2010 the company began planning the export site's development.

The loader has been a contentious issue for Newcastle, drawing criticism from environmental groups, particularly over its dust management claims.

"Anybody who lives in Newcastle knows there is a blanketing of coal dust in many suburbs close to the coal loaders every day of the year, 365 days," Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield spokesperson John Hayes told The Newcastle Herald.

"There's a widespread view that spraying water and dust on the coal dust piles doesn't do much to suppress dust."

Du Plooy said the final design of the project would be lodged as a ‘‘preferred project report’’ with the NSW Department of Planning early next year.

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