Japan Utilities Use Record Coal, LNG Following Nuclear Shutdowns

Japan’s regional power companies burned a record amount of coal and liquefied natural gas for November as they relied on the fossil fuels to make up for lost output from offline nuclear reactors.

The country’s 10 electricity utilities increased their use of LNG by 1.9 percent to 4.6 million metric tons in November, the biggest volume for the month, according to data from the Federation of Electric Power Cos. Coal consumption climbed 20.5 percent to 4.78 million tons, a record for the month, according to the industry group, which started compiling the data in 1972.

All of Japan’s 50 reactors are shut, pending safety reviews by the nuclear watchdog after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. With no date set for restart of the units, Japan will need to rely on thermal power to meet electricity demand.

Nuclear energy accounted for 29.2 percent of all electricity in Japan in the fiscal year ended March 2010 while power plants using LNG, coal and crude provided more than 60 percent, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in an annual report published in June 2010. Atomic power generated about 2 percent of the country’s total electricity last fiscal year as most reactors were shut for safety checks, according to data compiled by the trade ministry.

The utilities, consisting of the 10 regional monopolies, generated 54.15 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity using thermal power in November, up 2.1 percent from a year earlier, the industry group said in a statement today. The companies had no output from nuclear stations after Kansai Electric Power Co. shut two reactors at its Ohi plant in September for maintenance.

The following table shows Japanese utilities’ consumption and purchases of fuel oil, crude, LNG and coal in November. Fuel oil and crude volumes are in kiloliters, while those for LNG and coal are in tons.

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                November 2013     Change Y-o-Y

CONSUMPTION
Coal            4,781,607         20.5%
Fuel oil          913,205        -17.8%
Crude oil         926,490        -22.8%
LNG             4,596,827         1.9%

PURCHASES
Coal            5,098,855         16.7%
Fuel oil          930,287        -19.6%
Crude oil         887,354         2.0%
LNG             5,013,692         8.6%
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