Romanian coal mining industry

12.02.2015 | By Oana Stanciu

Romania has a long coal mining tradition and substantial coal resources.Hard coal resources are estimated at 2206 million tons, of which 592 million tons are commercially exploitable within the currently leased perimeters. Most hard coal deposits are situated in the Jiu Valley coal basin.

Proven reserves of lignite totalize 986 million tones, with a further 11606 million tons of resources. 95% of lignite deposits are situated in the Oltenia mining basin and more than 80% of them can be mined in opencast mines. The remaining lignite deposits represent a low economic potential, which explains why extraction in most other areas has stopped. Leased lignite reserves can ensure exploitation for another 15 years, at a production level of about 30 million tons/year.

Coal production was almost reduced by half in the last 20 years, mostly due to the decreased mining activity and reduced coal consumption (both in the industry -such as siderurgy – and households – heat consumed from coal-fired plants).In the period 2011 – 2013, the national coal production decreased by 31%: from 30 million tons extracted in 2011 to 24.7 million tons in 2013. Lignite and hard coal production fell by 32% and 13%, respectively.According to the data collected by the National Institute of Statistics (INS), in the first 11 months of 2014 coal production was 4093 million toe (tons of oil equivalent), with 6.3% (274 900 toe) lower than in the same period of 2013.

The total lignite production capacity amounts to about 33 million tons/year, while domestic consumption of lignite is about 23 million tons/year, which means a production overcapacity of about 10 million tons/year. In contrast, national hard coal production does not meet the demand of the internal market, therefore the import is required. In 2013 Romania imported 594 000 toe of coal, down by 22% compared to 2012.In the early 1990s, Romania had 464 coal and other minerals mines. By 2004 the production was stopped in the most unprofitable 344 mines. 82 of them were closed and contracts for closing and greening other 191 were signed.Romanian Government started the mining sector restructuring in 1997 because the majority of businesses operating there was unprofitable and, consequently, generated losses and arrears for the state budget.By 2012 there were six companies active in the coal sector: National Company of Lignite Oltenia, the National Coal Company Ploiesti, National Hard Coal Company (CNH SA Petrosani) and 3 energy complexes – Rovinari, Turceni, Craiova.

During 2012, the coal industry underwent major restructuring. The lignite mines and power plants were combined into the vertically integrated Oltenia Energy Complex. Restructuring of the hard coal sector was more problematic and was completed only at the end of 2012 with the creation of two separate operating units.One (National Society for Mine Closure Jiu Valley) will oversee the closure of three coal mines in the Jiu Valley that are not viable (Uricani, Paroşeni and Petrila) by 2018, following the Council Decision 2010/787/EU on state aid to the coal industry. Job losses will total 2 400, leaving 5 200 employees.The other unit (Mining Division of Hunedoara Energy Complex) will continue to operate the remaining four coal mines without state aid (Lonea, Livezeni, Vulcan and Lupeni), with an annual production capacity of 1.5 million tonnes and it will supply two thermoelectric power plants that are part of the Hunedoara Energy Complex, becoming its branch. Since 2018, the Mining Division of Hunedoara Energy Complex will remain the only hard coal producer in Romania.

Although in recent years the national production of coal had a decreasing trend, Romania ranks 7th among coal producers in the European Union member countries. At the national level, the supply of coal is lower than the demand, and the deposits are estimated to provide current production level (1.5 million tons per year) for 36 years.Lignite is the raw material used to produce electricity and heat in the majority of thermoelectric power plants in Romania. Thermoelectric energy produced from lignite in the year 2013 represented 30% of the thermoelectric energy produced in Romania. Over the last three years, the production of lignite in Romania has decreased due to the lower lignite demand.After restructuring the mining and energy sectors, the main producer of lignite in Romania (98.66% of national output in 2013) is the branch Mining Division Tg. Jiu being part of the Oltenia Energy Complex. The Mining Division Tg. Jiu meets all lignite requirements for Oltenia Energy Complex and for all others thermoelectric energy producers.

The external price for bituminous coal equivalent to the hard coal produced in Romania decreased from 45.41 RON/Gcal in 2013 to 41.44 RON/Gcal in 2014. This price reduction was also reflected in hard coal price of the domestic production which decreased from an average price of 58.83 RON/Gcal at 52.75 RON/Gcal in the first eight months of 2014. In the period 2008 – 2011, coal mining had a constant rate of 0.6% in the total Romanian industrial production. In 2011, coal production share in mining and quarrying was 16%, down compared to previous years. In 2010 the share was 21.7%, respectively 20.1% in 2009.Between 2008 and 2010, mining and quarrying accounted for less than 2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Romania’s entire hard coal and lignite output is used for heat and power generation. In 2013 coal-fired power plants had a share of 27.25% in the total energy production, compared to  27.36% (hydro power plants), 14.35% (natural gas power plants), 19.61% (Cernavodă nuclear power plant) and 9% (wind power plants).

Sources: Industry across Europe 2013
Picture:   x-dragos

About Author

Oana Stanciu

Master’s degrees in Economics at Academy of Economic Studies of Bucharest, Romania and Engineering at Polytechnics University of Bucharest, specialist in competition and state aid. Professional experience in Central Public Administration: competition inspector at Romanian Competition Council, expert at Ministry of Finance of Romania. Currently living in Krakow and getting acquainted with the Polish language and culture.