12:20 GMT +326 September 2017
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    Train cars with coal at the Donetsk railway station. In early January, Ukrainian radicals who earlier participated in the fighting in the Donbass started a blockade against the Donetsk People's Republic

    Kiev to 'Buy Russian Coal' if Ukraine’s Energy Sector Risks Shutdown

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    On Wednesday, two Ukrainian thermal power plants (TPP) suspended operations, including one in the Kiev Region, due to a shortage of anthracite coal. Another TPP is planning to suspend operations Thursday.

    Currently, Ukrainian TPPs have a total reserve of nearly 100,000 tons of anthracite. Yury Korolchuk, a member of the supervisory board of the Ukrainian Institute for Energy Strategies, told the Russian online publication Vzglyad that those reserves would be enough just for one to two weeks.

    The shortage in anthracite reserves is due to a blockade of energy coal supplies from the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donbass.

    In late December 2016, a so-called Ukrainian volunteer fighters group declared a trade and economic blockade of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). The blockade resulted in disruptions in anthracite shipments from Donbass territories, not controlled by Kiev, which forced the government to introduce a state of emergency in the energy sector.

    Meanwhile, Ukrainian Energy Minister Igor Nasalik said that the suspension of three thermal power plants would not result in power supplies restrictions.

    "There will be no blackouts across Ukraine," he said.

    In fact, Ukrainian energy companies cannot guarantee energy shipments without disruptions. It is expected that Ukrainian nuclear power plants and hydro power stations could be used to compensate losses.

    According to Alexei Anpilogov, an energy expert and head of the Osnovanie Research Center, Ukrainian nuclear power plants are not designed to run in such conditions.

    "The so-called load-following mode [it enables adjusting output as demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day] increases loading on energy blocks and leads to potential breakdowns," Anpilogov told Vzglyad.

    In 2015-16, a series of breakdowns were registered at Ukrainian NPPs. Kiev admitted they were due to load-following operations.

    The expert suggested that Ukrainian authorities would recruit standby capacities of hydropower plants to prevent blackouts.

    "However, it is possible that the water level in their reservoirs will soon drop to the critical low. As a result, hydro power plants will not be able to operate and the crisis in Ukraine’s energy sector will deepen," Anpilogov suggested.

    In turn, Korolchuk said, in addition to hydro power plants, Kiev may resort to the load-following mode at NPPs.

    "The suspension of operations at three thermal power plants indicates that the Ukrainian energy system is switching to manual mode. No one can predict what will happen next," he said.

    Echoing Anpilogov, Korolchuk also stressed that the load-following mode will increase accident risks at Ukrainian NPPs.

    However, in addition to the aforementioned scenarios, Kiev also hopes to receive energy coal shipments from South Africa. Anpilogov expressed skepticism about the initiative.

    "To various extents, countries rely on domestic-produced natural resources. While having its own coal reserves, Ukraine relies on shipments from South Africa. This is unprecedented," he noted.

    According to him, Kiev should modernize Ukrainian TPPs to be able to operate on different sorts of energy coal.

    "Probably, Kiev doesn’t have money and capabilities to do that. Loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were not used to build an independent energy system," the expert said.

    Nevertheless, Anpilogov suggested that if the situation reaches the critical point Kiev could ask to buy Russian coal.

    "If there is a matter of life and death I don’t think Kiev will shut down its power plants just to do harm to Donbass or Russia," he concluded.

     

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    blockade, energy sector, Donbass, Ukraine
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