December 23, 2014

Soon all Ukrainians Will Be Experts on Coal

Bohdan Sokolovskyi

They say that in Soviet times, among the ways to distract people from problems of real life there were, for example, Kashpirovskiy's television sessions of mass psychotherapy. More than two decades have passed, but the Kremlin's strategy has not changed much. Now for the mass hypnosis are used, in particular, speculations around energy carriers. To find in this information flow a quality thought is extremely difficult. In recent years, almost all our citizens have become experts on gas. It seems they soon will be experts on oil, and nuclear energy as well. But so far the theme of coal is being worked over.

This is evidenced, in particular, by demonstrative rolling blackouts due to a lack of fuel for thermal power plants. As if we do not have enough specialists just to warn of power outage in time. But someone considers it more suitable and effective, for example, to show the whole country, how during a surgery the light goes out, and doctors then and there are doomed to a heroic deed.

So, coal. In Ukraine, for more than 100 years, it has been produced in the current Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk regions. Later production began in Volyn and Lviv regions. Prior to the aggression of the Russian Federation, there had been working 140 official mines. In the past 2013, they produced nearly 84 million tons. According to the Ministry of Statistics, about 71 million tons were used during the year. Ministry of Energy reports that in the coal industry were used approximately 61 million tons.

By the way, Western experts cannot understand this discrepancy: for them 10 million tons of coal is a lot. For Ukraine, it is “within the error”. Not to mention the difference between production (84) and domestic consumption (61) plus exports (about 12). In terms of money, it is almost 100 million US dollars! Many “Westerners” wonder: Does the state with 45-million population have no one to count the options? Is it possible that no one knows elementary arithmetic? How do you, with such knowledge are going to live in Europe?

Last year, all Ukrainian TPP and CHPP taken together consumed more than 38 million tons of coal. This year, because of the Russian Federation's aggression, thermal power plants and heating plants are experiencing deficit of coal. To replace one sort of coal with some others is not easy, because the boilers at the stations are designed for specific mines. Not that at other mines the coal is better or worse — it is just different. It happened so that almost half of the Ukrainian power system consumes power-generating coal with anthracite, which is produced mainly in the Donbas. 3-4 million tons of that coal cannot be taken out from the warehouses of mines due to war damages to transport components, — or so they say. As a result, its stocks in warehouses of TPP and CHPP are not complete and by the end of the year will amount to about 1.4 million tons instead of the required 3 million tons.

Possible options for “urgent rescue of the situation” in the energy sector are as follows: to import coal of most acceptable sorts from international markets or to buy it from the aggressor (Russia and separatists). In the long term, of course, we could redesign the TPP and CHPP for the coals from other basins, such as Lviv-Volyn or Polish coal fields. But this requires years, money and development of new mines! Most likely, given the fact that no one has ever cooperated with the aggressor, the leadership of the country and the industry in September this year took probably the only right (in this context) decision to import coal from South Africa. The advantages of such imports from countries that are far from the political players are obvious. If nothing else, this means diversification of supplies.

But this right decision remained on paper. Experts in the field of energy, to put it mildly, were surprised by the scandal surrounding possible purchases from South Africa. And as a result, they decided to buy coal from the aggressor during the war. No less oddly is being presented the Head of state's correct agreement on possible supply of Australian coal — because the coal from Australia cannot be better than the coal from South Africa. Anyway, it is not much closer or cheaper. Who is “putting the leadership and the whole country's head on the block”? Probably, this question should be answered by competent authorities.

It is worth noting that until now almost nobody paid any attention to the coal in Ukraine. And now, to a large extent due to the Kremlin, and ourselves (?), many in the world are interested in it too. Especially against the backdrop of the recent decision of the US Congress. In any case, the global environment, which is very well versed in politics and understands very well what an independent power is about, most of all is interested in how Ukraine will be solving its coal issues. If it does it correctly, our country will benefit from it, if “as always” — there will be harmfully. And it seems that the Head of the state has quickly realized this. Otherwise, he would not have negotiated on the coal in Australia (this is beneath President). Nevertheless, he decided on this now almost the only step to then have a free hand. And you can imagine how alarmed now will be the “fifth column” and “dealers” from business.

It is also possible that after diversification through Australia, Ukraine will demand coal or free aid in its acquisition from guarantors of our territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum, which would be quite logical, reasonable, grounded and very tellingly. And this is the President's (and only his!) job.

Besides, it should be expected that, at last, there will be sorted out our not cheap coal sector and there will be transparence in it. In particular, — in figures of the volumes of production, consumption, export of Ukrainian coal, etc. Maybe it will come to solving the problem of “makeshift coalmines”. And the coal industry will be followed by gas and oil industries, nuclear energy, alternative sources, and others. Eventually, the whole world, referring to our own data, will stop discussing the massive corruption in the Ukrainian power generating industry (often not real but due to our sloppiness). That is what, in particular, was trying to do the third President of Ukraine. But anyway, he did not have enough constitutional powers. At that time, there were no European majority and common desire.

Even if there are not enough our own specialists to restore order (and this is not so), we can use the experience of other countries, which do not have such phenomena. And if they do (phenomena), those phenomena are transparent enough and can be easily explained.