Construction starts on second Bangladeshi reactor

First concrete for the foundation of unit 2 of the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh was poured during a ceremony on 14 July. A construction licence for the Russian-supplied reactor was issued by the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority on 8 July.

The first concrete pouring ceremony was attended by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom’s deputy director general, Alexander Lokshin.

First concrete is seen as the start of the main construction phase of a nuclear reactor. Two 1200 MWe VVER-1200 units are being built at Rooppur, which is on the eastern bank of the river Ganges at Rooppur, 160 km from Dhaka.

The VVER-1200 reactor design has already been implemented at Novovoronezh II in Russia, where the first unit of that design – a development from the VVER-1000 – entered commercial operation in February 2017. JSC AtomStroyExport (ASE), a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, is the general construction contractor.

Rosatom in February 2011 signed an agreement for two 1000 MWe-class reactors to be built at Rooppur for the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC). The initial contract for the project, worth USD12.65 billion, was signed in December 2015. The Bangladesh Atomic Regulatory Authority issued the first site licence for the Rooppur plant in June 2016, allowing preliminary site works, including geological surveys, to begin.

The regulator issued a design and construction licence to the BAEC in early November 2017, enabling the plant to move to the construction phase. First concrete for unit 1 of the Rooppur plant was poured at the end of that month. At unit 1, work has started on building the walls of the reactor building, their reinforcement, and laying the foundation slab of the auxiliary reactor building, as well as soil stabilisation work for the cooling tower. Rosatom said that currently 5000 tonnes of concrete is being used daily at the site and 4200 people are involved in construction works.

“Eight months ago the first concrete ceremony of Rooppur unit 1 construction was held,” Lokshin said. “Today we are meeting again to start the main stage of construction of Rooppur unit 2. All the works at the Rooppur construction site are going according to schedule. And thanks to close team work [between the] Russian and Bangladeshi sides, we are doing everything possible to finish construction on time.”

Rooppur unit 1 is scheduled to begin operation in 2023, with unit 2 following in 2024.

Borisov noted that more than 20% of all generating capacity in Bangladesh had been built with the participation of Russian specialists. “We hope that the Rooppur nuclear power plant will become a mega-project that will allow Bangladesh to move to a qualitatively new stage of development of its energy sector,” he said.


India’s shift to renewable energy can create 3 million jobs by 2030: Report

India can add about 3 million new jobs by 2030, provided 40 percent of the country’s electricity is generated through renewables, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

The report quotes a study carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an arm of the United Nations. The ILO report studies how climate change mitigation will have an effect on jobs in India and across the globe.

According to the study, a rise in the percentage of renewables used to generate electricity — which is 7.5 percent in India as of February 2018 — will “more than offset” over 259,000 jobs that can be lost by scaling down of carbon and resource-intensive industries.

The publication states that all the sectors in India’s economy, except mining, would see a rise in employment by 2030.

The ILO study estimates a net increase of “approximately 2.8 million jobs” if sustainable practices such as changes in energy mix, growth in use of electric vehicles and improved energy efficiency in “existing and future buildings” are adopted.

“The findings of our report underline that jobs rely heavily on a healthy environment and the services it provides,” ILO deputy director-general Deborah Greenfield told the publication.

Last month, Power Minister RK Singh had said the country hopes to touch renewable power capacity of 225 gigawatts by March 2022. “We will cross the target of 175 GW of renewable energy before 2022,” Singh had said, referring to the commitment made by India during the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. India had committed to install 175 GW of renewable power capacity by 2022.

The ILO report also estimates an average loss of 5.7 years of working life per person in India every year for over 15 years till 2015. This was a result of natural disasters caused or worsened by human activities.

The report further states that heat stress would be one of the prime causes of reduced working hours in the future with over 64 percent of agricultural workers’ hours lost due to heat stress in 2030.


Rooppur rail link contract signed

A Bangladesh-Indian joint venture is to build a new 26.5 kilometre railway link from the Rooppur nuclear power plant to Ishwardi under a contract signed in Dhaka on 10 July. The contract is to be completed within 18 months.

Construction of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power unit – a Russian-designed VVER-1200, which is being constructed by JSC AtomStroyExport (ASE) – began at Rooppur in November 2017. Earlier this week a construction licence was issued for Rooppur unit 2, with first concrete now expected to be poured on 14 July.

The contract between Bangladesh Railway and the joint venture of Bangladesh companies Standard Engineers Ltd and Castle Construction Ltd and Indian company GPT Infrastructure was signed in the presence of Bangladesh Minister for Railways Mazibul Haque, who said the rail link would be needed to support the construction project.

“For the construction of the Rooppur nuclear power plant, we will need to transport heavy machineries and instruments through a freight train. Hence, the construction of a new railway link is very important,” the minister said, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

The contract includes the construction of 22km of main railway tracks, a 4.5km loop line, a station, 13 level crossings and seven box culverts, as well as the purchase and establishment of a computer-based signalling system. It is worth a total of BDT2976 million (USD35 million), and will form part of a network linking the Rooppur plant to the sea ports of Chittagong and Mongla.

Kolkata-based GPT Infrastructure said its share of the joint venture is 34%.

Russia, Bangladesh and India signed a memorandum on cooperation in the implementation of the Rooppur nuclear power plant project in March, setting a framework for the interaction of ASE, Indian and Bangladeshi experts in the implementation of works related to the project. Under the agreement, Indian companies can be involved in construction and installation works, the supply of materials and equipment of a non-critical category in the interests of the project.


China’s port restrictions cause berthing disruptions

A wave of stricter port restrictions in south China has left steel producers searching for alternative ports to allow them to berth vessels carrying their imported metallurgical coal cargoes.

A south China steel producer, which typically berths its vessels at Fangcheng port, has been prevented from doing so. An east China steel producer has been trying to get clearance to berth a cargo of Australian premium mid-volatile metallurgical coal at Wenzhou port in Zhejiang province but has now been denied entry. Both steel producers are scrambling to find an alternative. Another south China steel producer might be barred from taking any more imported coal in the following months as port import quotas have nearly been reached, sources said.

“For Chinese steelmakers, especially those in the south, it is no longer a matter of prices but of which ports will actually allow them to berth,” a China coal sales manager said. “At the moment, Jingtang port in Hebei province is stocked full with cargoes, as it is one of the few ports that actually allow vessels to berth and unload with minimal disruptions.”

Trading firms have been particularly disadvantaged by these new restrictions. At Rizhao port in Shandong province, Chinese customs have allowed trading firms to unload cargoes only if they can provide proof that the cargo will eventually be sold to a buyer. “They are essentially preventing traders from stockpiling cargoes at the port,” a Zhejiang-based trader said. “At the same time there have been limits placed on trader sales. Traders can only offload and offer cargoes in the port that they are based in, instead of offering from various other ports, which limits the number of sales options that they have.”

At least two to three cargoes of distressed premium mid-volatile hard metallurgical coal are currently held by Chinese trading firms, being offered in the spot market at huge discounts in a US$184 – 185/t cfr China range as they struggle to find a home. In contrast, the current Argus assessment for premium hard low volatile metallurgical coal loading in the normal 15 – 60 day window is US$199.60/t cfr north China.

These port restrictions are not new but have been escalated. Since last year steel producers and trading firms were already reporting a spate of measures imposed by Chinese customs in an attempt to reduce coal imports into China. This includes restricting the clearance of coal cargoes with high sulfur or ash content on grounds of environmental protection and extending the time required for cargoes to obtain clearance from customs officials, among other limitations. Ports have also imposed annual volume quotas for coal imports. Once these quotas are exceeded buyers will not be allowed to import metallurgical coal for the remainder of the year.

These measures are aimed at indirectly discouraging Chinese buyers from importing coal from overseas. “An outright ban will be a bad idea because it opens the government up to criticism,” a Chinese trader said. “So, these indirect methods are best.”

The restrictions have added to the woes of Chinese metallurgical coal buyers, which have already been hit by higher import costs as a result of a depreciating Chinese yuan after continuing trade tensions between US and China hit sentiment in foreign exchange markets.

Typhoon Maria is also forecast to batter east China for most of the day up until 12 July. But some ports in the region, including Shanghai and Zhoushan, have remained open and are largely unaffected.


Vostochny port handles record coal in 1H18

Vostochny port, a stevedoring comoany in Primorye (Russia), handled 12.3 million t of coal in the first half of 2018, 5% more than in the same corresponding period in 2017.

This is reportedly an all-time record for the company which specialises in handling coal for exports.

This year, Vostochny port shipped coal to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

The company unloaded 161 400 gondola cars of coal in the first half of 2018, including 125 600 or 78% innovative gondola cars with increased capacity. The company handled 288 vessels.


Growth in South Eastern Railway’s freight earnings

During the first three months i.e. April-June of current financial year (2018-19), South Eastern Railway has earned Rs. 3121.58 crore from originating freight traffic which is Rs. 235.53 crore more than the corresponding period of last year i.e. 2017-18 thus registering a growth of 8.16 %.

This growth in freight earnings has been possible due to increase in freight loading during the above period. Coal loading during April-June of the current financial year has been 8.10 million tonnes which is a growth of 61.35% in comparison to the corresponding period of last year surpassing the Railway Board’s target by 5.88%. The other major components of freight loading were 18.71 million tonnes of Iron Ore, 3.75 million tonnes of Pig-Iron & Finished Steel, 2.94 million tonnes of Cement, 1.20 million tonnes of Merchandised Goods etc.

South Eastern Railway’s total freight loading during April-June of the current financial year has been 36.49 million tonnes as against 35.95 million tonnes loaded during the corresponding period of last year recording a growth of 1.50%.


Brazilian cement demand falls 20% in May

Brazil’s cement market contracted by 20.3 per cent YoY in May from 4.503Mt to 3.588Mt (excluding imports), according to the latest data published by SNIC, the country’s cement association.

In the southeast, the largest market in the country, sales fell 17.5 per cent to 1.729Mt from 2.095Mt in May 2017. In the northeast sales decreased 23.2 per cent from 940,000t in the equivalent year-ago period to 722,000t in May 2018. A 20 per cent decline was recorded in southern Brazil with sales down to 591,000t from 739,000t in May 2017. In the central-western part of the country the drop was the largest at 25.3 per cent YoY to 378,000t while in the north, Brazil’s smallest market, volumes fell 24.7 per cent YoY to 168,000t.

SNIC has attributed the drop in sales on the road transport strike and subdued economic activity. Previously, the sector was anticipating 1-2 per cent growth for the year, but the strike and its repercussions throughout the supply chain combined with weak economic activity has led to predictions of a market contraction, according to Paulo Camillo Penna, SNIC president.

Exports advanced by 60 per cent from 5000t to 8000t in May 2018.

In the first five months of 2018 domestic sales (excluding imports) declined 4.5 per cent to 20.42Mt from 21.379Mt in 5M17. In the southeast and south sales slipped by some 2.4 per cent to 9.827Mt and 3.429Mt, respectively. In the central-western part of Brazil sales fell 5.1 per cent YoY to 2.057Mt in 5M18. The northeast saw volumes sold decrease by 9.4 per cent to 4.191Mt YoY while the north reported the largest decline at 9.8 per cent to 916,000t.

As the domestic market experienced a downturn, cement producers sought solace elsewhere and exports increased by 5.7 per cent from 35,000t in 5M17 to 37,000t in 5M18.

Source: CEMNET

Kenya’s cement consumption falls to 1.4Mta in 2Q18

Cement demand in Kenya has fallen to 1.4Mta in the second quarter of the year, according to a report from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). The agency attributes the drop to a continued slowdown in real estate activity.

In the first quarter of 2017 domestic cement consumption reached 1.5Mt but has since decreased. Furthermore, the continuing decline was also reflected in a 15.7 per cent drop in cement imports as well as in an eight per cent fall in clinker imports during the first quarter of the year.

The market contraction has affected several cement producers in the country. Athi River Mining (ARM) dismissed 700 staff last year as it noted a US$65m loss. East African Portland Cement reported a US$15m, the first since 2014, while market leader Bamburi Cement’s profit shrunk by a third to US$20m.

Source: CEMNET

Cement cos’ profits likely to crumble under cost pressure

Despite a robust demand, cement companies’ profits are expected to come under pressure in June quarter due to a sharp rise in input costs especially that of pet coke and diesel.

Led by a sustained pick-up in infrastructure spending and firm rural demand, sales volume of top cement producers such as UltraTech Cement, ACC, Ambuja Cement, Shree Cement, JK Cement, JK Lakshmi Cement, India Cement and Ramco Cement are expected to register an average 20 per cent growth in the June quarter.

Input costs rise

However, the average cement prices during the quarter was down five per cent year-on-year even as cost pressures increased due to high energy prices and depreciating rupee.

The all-India average cement prices declined by ₹3 per 50 kg bag to ₹328 in June, after a ₹4-5 increase in the previous two months.

Petcoke prices have been increasing for the last 15 months and cement companies have managed to pass on the incremental cost partially by hiking cement prices.

However, after a certain level they were not able to increase prices due to excess supply in the market. The sector is bogged down by excess capacity.

Binod Kumar Modi, Senior Research Analyst, Reliance Securities, said further hike in cement prices looks imminent to sail through high cost pressure, as any meaningful reduction in fuel prices seems unlikely in the medium term.

To tide over the rising logistics cost, cement companies have changed commercial terms on freight to FOB (free on board) from ex-factory. Under the new terms, cement dealers are made to share logistic costs and this improved cement companies margins in the last quarter.

Monsoon progress crucial

Going ahead, a normal monsoon is important to sustain demand in rural regions which has seen construction activities reviving in the last couple of months.

While progress of the monsoon was moderately below normal last month, it has recovered and has been widespread across the country which bodes well for cement demand, he said.

Capacity addition

Pritam Deuskar, Fund Manager, Bonanza Portfolio, said the industry is expected to add about 126 million tonne production capacity to take the overall capacity to 600 mt by FY20.

The capacity addition is being largely led by UltraTech Cement, Dalmia Bharat, JK Cement and Ambuja Cement.

With the current capacity utilisation hovering at 72 per cent, the new capacity addition may be delayed by a few months but it will add more pressure on cement companies.


Dalmia Bharat Cement eyes premiumisation; acquisitions on radar

Dalmia Bharat Cement may soon abandon the mass cement segment as it tries to move up the value chain with premiumisation while weighing options on organic and inorganic growth to enter newer markets of North India. “Premium and super-premium cement brands account for 60 per cent of revenues and in the next two years it would rise to at least 80 per cent. Ideally, we will go 100 per cent,” Dalmia Bharat Senior Executive Director Marketing B K Singh said. He was in city to launch a new premium cement brand ‘Dalmia FBC’.

The company is currently present in East, Northeast and South India. “It has been the objective of this company to emerge as a pan-India player and not limit itself to certain geographies,” Singh said.

With the fate of Binani Cement hanging in the balance, Dalmia Bharat Cement had not ruled out options of acquisition of other cement companies or units for the North India foray.

We had been trying to enter north (India) and attempt for Binani was a step towards that, Singh said.

The company, however, declined to divulge alternate plans for foray into the northern Indian market if its bitter legal battle with UltraTech under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to win over Binani Cement fails.

The company’s consolidated production capacity stands at 26 million tonne per annum (mtpa) but is limited to south, east and the northeast.

If Dalmia Bharat Cement wins over Binani Cement, it can open a readily available market comprising Rajasthan and Gujarat for the company giving it a sizeable presence with its 6.25 mtpa cement plant in Rajasthan. Acquisition has been a key strategy for the company in scaling up its business as well as enter new geographies.

Last year, it acquired only integrated clinker capacity in Bihar Kalyanpur Cements, marking its foray into the state.

As of now, Dalmia Bharat is the only cement company which owns at least one plant in each of the four key eastern states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

“We command a 15 per cent market share in the east making it the second largest cement company in this zone while its consolidated market share in South India stands at 11-12 per cent,” Executice Director, sales and marketing (east) Indrajit Chatterjee said.

Its bid to enter the west Indian cement market has also been successful after it acquired the three million tonne stressed assets of Murli Cement which is expected to open up the Maharashtra market for the company.

Both the acquisitions could be ready by the third quarter of this year, the company expects.

Source: PTI