The abdication of king coal


Britain’s centuries-old reliance on coal is at an end, creating an uncertain future for its bulk terminal ports and operators.

You need to delve back before the Romans to trace the emergence of the use of coal in Britain. But the British Isles’ still abundant fossil fuel, which powered an industrial revolution, overseas empire and more recently a nation’s energy needs, is set to become a footnote of history within a decade. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government confirmed in November that it would deliver on energy policy plans put forward by the previous Conservative government and shut down the last of the nation’s eight remaining coal-fired power stations by 2025.
The decision follows the recent demise of deep coal mining in Britain. The UK’s last large shaft collieries, at Hatfield and Kellingley in Yorkshire and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, shut in 2015. (Opencast mine operations continue in England, Wales and Scotland, however,with applications for a new site in Northumberland). UK coal production in the third quarter of 2016 was 1 Mt, which was 28% lower  than the same period in 2015. Deep mine production fell by 99% to a new record low of 5,000t (just seven small deep mines remain open), although surface mine production, up 1.8%, made up the 1Mt.
Falling demand from the UK power sector has triggered the plummet in UK coal imports. Britain’s coal terminals have experienced a steady decline in volumes of coal in recent years, from 49.3 Mt in 2013, its highest level since before the financial crisis, to 42.2 Mt in 2014 and 24.2 Mt in 2015. But in 2016 the slide went into freefall. Imports of coal in the first half of the year fell by three-quarters, from a year earlier, to 3.9 Mt, and in the third quarter were down to 1.7 Mt. Fullyear figures released in March are expected to have crashed well below 10 Mt.

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