Russia’ Coal Exports Continue to Rise

Spotlight Activity: Russia’ Coal Exports Continue to Rise

Coal is one of the largest sources of energy in Russia, accounting for 14.4% of the country’s electricity consumption. Russia is the world’s fifth largest consumer and the sixth largest producer of coal in the world, surpassed only by China, the United States, India, Australia, and Indonesia.

Russia’s coal reserves equal 19% of the world’s total: 173 billion tons. The major areas of coal production are the Donets, Moscow, Pechora, Kuznetsk, Kansk-Achinsk, Irkutsk and South Yakutsk basins. The two major coal producers in Russia are Rosugol and Donugol. Over two-thirds of coal produced in Russia is used domestically.

In 2010, Russia produced 323.4 million tons of coal and has increased production since. The Ministry of Energy projects this year’s production to be 390 million tons. Domestic demand has been flat. Exports have driven growth in 2017 and deliveries to the domestic market grew only by 2%, while exports increased by 15% compared to 2016 and reached 186.3 million tons, which is 52% of total Russian coal shipments (356.1 million tons). 91% of export shipments were made up of steam coal.

In 2012, Russia consumed a little more than three quarters of its coal production and exported the rest. Although coal accounts for a relatively modest share of Russia’s total energy consumption, it is a more vital part of consumption in Siberia, where most Russian coal is mined. Although coal is not very important as a whole, some industries rely on it and many people burn it in their homes. Many coals mines have been closed down since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Workers have staged strikes and temporarily closed down the Trans-Siberian Railroad demanding new jobs. 

Russia is the world’s third largest coal exporter, with the World Coal Association estimating that in 2013 it exported 118 million tonnes of thermal coal and 22 million tonnes of metallurgical coal.The US Energy Information Administration noted in July 2015 that Russian coal exports “have almost tripled over the past decade.”

Russian coal is exported to almost 80 countries. The main importers of solid fuel from Russia in 2017 were Japan, China, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Poland and Latvia. It is projected that in 2035 coal exports from Russia to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region will increase by another 50 million tons.

The growth in exports of Russian coal is due to the flexible price policy of Russian companies in the international market. It enables coal to be produced in Russia at a relatively low cost. Government plans for 2020 would increase the proportion of coal-fired plants in the national fuel mix from 25% to 37%, and decrease the share of natural gas from 70% to 58%.

Status: Falling Behind

Coal is the leading source of carbon emissions around the world. We understand that there may be some justification for the use of coal in the harsh environment of Siberia, but surely steps can be taken to reduce coal consumption in other parts of Russia. Substituting the use of coal with either natural gas (a fossil fuel energy source that emits less CO2 than coal) or renewable energy would be a better solution than relying on coal.

In addition, Russia’s large-scale export of coal to other countries is cause for concern. While coal exports may be a good source of revenue for Russia, they encourage the production of CO2 by the countries that import Russia coal, e.g. China, Turkey, Poland, Germany.

Take Action

Dear Minister Novak;

Climate Scorecard is a project that supports the Paris Agreement and encourages countries around the world to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We encourage Russia to take steps to reduce the amount of coal it produces, especially for domestic use. While we understand that coal exports are an important source of revenue for Russia, such exports have the effect of increasing the production of greenhouse gases in coal importing countries. We encourage your Ministry to play a leadership role in the global fight against climate change and reduce the amount of coal you export to other countries.

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42, Shepkina Street, Moscow 107996, Russian Federation

Learn More “Russia and Coal”  “Should We Expect a Crisis in the Russian Coal Industry?” by Stanislev Grachev, April 23, 2018 “Russia Coal Fights for Survival” Nov 19,2016 “Electricity, Coal, and Nuclear Energy in Russia”

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