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China Plans Ban on Imports of Coal With High Ash, High Sulfur

China plans to ban imports of coal with high-ash and high-sulfur content as the nation seeks to limit the dirtiest fuels to fight pollution.

The world’s largest coal consumer will encourage imports of higher-quality supplies, according to Ren Lixin, the head of the coal division at the National Energy Administration. Domestic demand for the fuel may rise “slightly” this year and imports are expected to be similar to 2013 levels, he said at a conference in Shanghai today.

China is considering a ban on imports of some lower-quality coal as the government sets an annual agenda to address record pollution. The NEA has drafted different versions of plans since last May. A previous draft proposed limiting imports of lignite with a heating value lower than 4,540 kilocalories per kilogram, more than 1 percent sulfur and ash higher than 25 percent.

China imported a record 330 million metric tons of coal last year. Overseas purchases may fall this year as the nation tries to meet energy-saving targets, the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association said in December. The nation seeks to limit energy from coal at 65 percent this year, according to a government plan in January.

The Chinese coal market will have “low prices” and “low profitability” for a sustained period because of oversupply, Gong Qingchao, the sales director at China National Coal Group, the nation’s second-largest producer by output, said at today’s conference.

Thermal coal with a heating value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram at Qinhuangdao, China’s benchmark grade, traded from 525 yuan to 535 yuan a ton as of April 7.

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