Stocks of thermal coal at Polish mines halved on the year and fell by 600,000t in one month to 2.8mn t at the end of October, according to data released by ARP, which monitors the Polish coal sector on behalf of the government. This was the lowest thermal stock level at Polish coal mines since April 2019. Stocks at Polish mines have been falling since August last year, when they rose to more than 6.8mn t, the highest since spring 2015, because of slumping demand during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
More recently, exceptionally high demand from Polish power plants has contributed to a quick decline in mine stocks. Polish power and combined power and heat (CHP) plants consumed more than 31mn t of thermal coal in January-October, a 25pc increase on the year.
Strong coal burn pushed stocks at power and heating plants down by 33pc on the year to about 4.8mn t at the end of October.
Falling imports contributed to low stocks at power plants. Poland imported 7.8mn t of thermal coal in January-October, a 12pc decline on the year. Imports from Russia, Poland's key supplier — fell by nearly 1mn t compared with the first 10 months of 2020 to 6.8mn t.
Importers said some recovery in rail imports in November-December has partially eased the tight supply in Poland. Poland also expects to resume seaborne imports later this month after a near half-year hiatus. Gdansk port said on 20 December that it expects to discharge a 75,000t cargo of Russian coal at Ust-Luga port by the end of this year. The Navios Alegria bulk carrier was berthed at Ust-Luga today, ship tracking data show.
But logistical issues amid low availability of railcars and lorries to transport coal continue to contribute to tight supply.
Importers using Poland's Braniewo-Mamonovo rail border crossing with Russian Kaliningrad are trying to increase their volumes before planned major one-month rail maintenance on the Polish side of the border in May next year. It is expected that rail imports will wind down some weeks before the start of the maintenance.