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Plant closure to slash Italy's 2014 thermal coal imports: Assocarboni

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Italian imports of thermal coal are expected to drop by 11% year on year to 16 million mt in 2014, mainly due to the closure of coal-fired capacity in Vado Ligure, according to Assocarboni, the Italian coal industry association, Friday.

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In March this year, two 330 MW coal-fired units at a plant run by Tirreno Power were forced to close after prosecutors launched an environmental investigation.

Assocarboni said the country's annual imports of coking coal would plunge to 4 million mt, down 15% on 2013 and largely due to the effects of Italy's economic problems on steel giant ILVA.

The association said these predicted falls came despite estimates that global seaborne coal trade will grow by 3% 1.158 billion mt this year, while 2014 global coal production is forecast to increase 2% on year to 7.2 billion mt.

"The opposite trend on coal we are seeing in Italy, compared to the rest of the world, demonstrates the weakness of the country's energy policy," said Andrea Clavarino, Assocarboni chairman.

He said Italian energy policy had made life "difficult" for the country's coal operators: "A number of investments in coal power plants, which would allow the country to secure its energy independence, reduce its energy bill and equip its plants with the best available technologies, are being stalled by the authorization process."

He described Italy's energy system as vulnerable due to its dependence on natural gas for about 50% of its energy mix, 40% of which is imported from Russia.

"This exposes the country to the geopolitical risk of supply disruptions. It is estimated that a shortage of natural gas supply from Russia this winter would be manageable only if it lasted less than 20 days, and with no adverse weather conditions."

--Gareth Carpenter,
--Edited by Maurice Geller,