According to the Vietnam National Coal and Minerals Industries Group (Vinacomin), during the firs six months this year, Vietnam produced 20.3 million tonnes of clean coal, down 5 percent year-on-year. The consumption quantity was 21.5 million tonnes, up 3.3 percent year-on-year. Of which, domestic consumption quantity reached 9.4 million tonnes and 12.05 million tonnes was for export.

Vinacomin said that by 2015, the domestic demand of coal could be up to 94 million tonnes. Especially, thermo power plants would need some 67 million dong. Meanwhile, the total production of coal would reach only 60 million tonnes. Till 2020, the production capacity would be 70 million tonnes while the total domestic demand would be 184 million tonnes. Particularly, thermo power plant would use some 150 million tonnes.

Tran Viet Ngai, chair of Vietnam Energy Association (VEA) predicted that by 2012 when 13 coal-fuelled power projects are put into operation, Vietnam would have to import coal.

Meanwhile, in order to ensure the energy security, nations will enhance using domestic coal and limit exporting coal. For example, Indonesia would maintain the export at 150 million tonnes of coal/year from 2010. Meanwhile, the traditional coal export markets of Indonesia and Australia was divided. Vietnam, in the long term trade ties with nations, would also be able to import maximum of tens of million tonnes of coal for power sector. Therefore, as for long term, Vietnam's import capacity of coal would be impossible.

Vietnam, from being a coal exporter, would become a coal importer in the near future. Vietnam could import energy coal from Indonesia and Australia.

However, the market situation by that time could lack coal, the export market share of energy coal of Australia and Indonesia will be held by Japan, Korea and Taiwan. So, it would be hard for Vietnam to negotiate buying coal, especially with huge quantity.

At present, Vietnam's export of coal is still being pushed up. According to Vinacomin, in Jan-Jul, its subsidiaries exported 13.586 million tonnes of coal (accounting for 58 percent of the group's coal export plan in 2009).

In March, 2009, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) was allowed to export low quality coal with a quantity of three million tonnes/year.

In fact, the coal sector has made big contributions into the country's GDP growth. The country's total revenue including coal export and domestic consumption (11.351 million tonnes) in Jan-July reached 18.84 trillion dong.

In order to solve the shortage of energy in the forthcoming years, it's time to reconsider the policy on coal export.

In Vinacomin's latest report, a leader said that by 2010, the total domestic demand of coal would be 25-26 million tonnes, so Vietnam would still be able to export 20 million tonnes because Vietnam's coal production could reach over 45 million tonnes in the following year. This showed that Vinacomin intended to reduce the export coal quantity to some five million tonnes by 2012. But, by that time, the coal energy crisis would actually start.

Thoi Bao Kinh Te Vietnam - August 21, 2009