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Japan Signs Its Most Expensive Coal Supply Deal Ever

Japan’s Nippon Steel Corporation has signed an agreement with mining and trading giant Glencore for thermal coal supply at $375 per ton in what is likely one of the highest prices a Japanese firm has paid for the commodity ever, sources familiar with the deal told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

As coal prices are soaring amid a global energy crunch and bans on Russia’s coal exports in the West, customers around the world are paying record-high prices for coal and are using more coal as they switch from expensive gas, where the market is even tighter.

The price in the Nippon Steel-Glencore agreement for coal supply until March 2023 is three times higher than the price of similar supply deals signed last year, one of Bloomberg’s sources says.

Japan, a major importer of energy commodities, is looking to secure supply amid soaring coal and gas prices and utilities switching to coal from gas where possible to conserve gas. Japan is on the brink of an energy crisis as it is forced to tackle a combination of a weak local currency, the fallout from the Ukraine war, and summer heatwaves.

At the beginning of the summer, the Japanese government called on households and companies to conserve as much electricity as possible this summer, seeking to prevent blackouts as spare power reserve capacity is expected to drop to critically low levels. The nationwide energy-conservation effort will be implemented from July 1 to September 30, amid concerns that Japan’s power system may not handle demand in peak summer.

Companies and countries importing energy commodities face surging coal prices as Europe restarts mothballed coal-fired power plants to conserve gas with the high uncertainty over Russian gas supply. The global coal benchmark, Australia Newcastle Coal futures, hit $414 on ICE Futures Europe early on Wednesday, while coal futures for 2023 in Europe soared to a record high on Tuesday after Russia said it would slash gas supply to Europe again.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 27 2022 said:
    Economics and energy security trump climate change dictates any time of the day.

    Examples abound of countries using more coal as they switch from the expensive gas where the market is even tighter. Japan has just paid the highest price for coal ever to secure its energy needs. China is increasing the production and use of coal and Germany is also resurrecting more coal-powered electricity plants.

    In so doing, the three major economies are merely giving priority to dealing with an immediate energy crisis over a long-term climate change crisis, which may or may not materialize.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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