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East China’s winter colder without power supply

Posted on 12 January 2021

2021 does not seem to be a normal year either, not when citizens in Shanghai, East China, all of a sudden can watch full of amazement the boiling water pouring into the air freeze before dropping to the ground in early January, a fad that is only commonplace for many years in Northeast China with winter temperatures usually below zero degree C, but the coldness in Shanghai got really unbearable when some people in the neighbourhood shivered in the dark and cold bedroom with the blackout on the night of January 7.

A cold wave has blanketed East China since January 6, causing the local temperatures to fall abruptly by 8-10 degrees C and on the morning of January 8, the Shanghai urban areas posted the degrees at minus 7 degrees C, the coldest so far for the same day in the 21st Century.

In the first few days of 2021, many citizens the regions south of the Yangtze River that have rarely seen snow or ice were sharing photos with ice on their car windows, dead plants in the public gardens because of the frostbites, and the others grudged about burst water pipelines in the bathrooms or living in the fridge because of no heating from the e-heater or air-conditioners because of no power supply.

Tik Tok sharing from Shanghai on January 7/Fence at a lake in Shanghai/blackout in Shanghai from a contact’s WeChat sharing

“I felt like living in the icehouse during the blackout and that had been two long hours waiting helplessly for the power supply to resume,” a Shanghai citizen shared the experience on Thursday night.

The blackout in some neighbourhoods in Shanghai was due to the sudden power consumption surge at around 20:30 on January 7 to 33.4 million kW, and the municipality’s power grid could not handle the burden, though the local authority stated that the main power grid remained intact.

Not only Shanghai, the neighbouring province Jiangsu had its grid tested on the same night as the local power consumption soared to a new high of 117 million kW, or the country’s No.1 power consuming province, and the much higher consumption in Jiangsu is also due to the fact that Jiangsu is an industrial province too, and its steelmaking capacity, for example, ranks the country’s second largest after Hebei, though as of now, no blackout has been reported despite the cold snap.

For the 2020-2021 winter, most of the power houses in China will probably be on high alert all the time with the unusually cold winter on the one hand, and the abnormally high coal prices and the stretch in coal supply on the other.

On January 8, the price of the 5,500 kcal/kg Shanxi blend thermal coal was assessed at Yuan 885/tonne ($137/t) including the 13% VAT FOT Qinhuangdao, North China’s Hebei, or an all-time high since Mysteel commenced the assessment on December 15 2008.

Besides, the coal consumers in East China are desperately awaiting deliveries from North China, as the domestic coal supply has seriously been stretched with the surge in demand from many parts of China and at the same time the ongoing trimming of the nationwide coal capacity as part of the industrial optimization.

Besides, the fast dropping temperature across China has slowed down the coal logistics, according to an official from a power plant in East China, as “the key coal transshipment ports in North China including Jingtang, Huanghua, Qinhuangdao and Caofeidian had all been halted for about one day over January 6-7,” he said.

Hopefully, the cold wave is expected to ebb starting January 9, and starting mid-January, China’s thermal coal supply may incline after a short pause from the domestic miners, according to an analyst in North China’s Shanxi.

“Some coal miners had taken a break after having fulfilled their annual production targets by late last December, but they will be back to operations starting sometime in January,” he said, adding that coal consumption the domestic industrial enterprises will probably slow down towards the most important festival - the Chinese New Year holiday over February 11-17.

China is the first to have got rid of the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the government-supported economic recovery has led to surprisingly robust demand for a series of raw materials such as coal, and iron ore.

At the same time, China’s continuing efforts in regulating and upgrading the coal industry and curtailing coal imports as part of the country’s measures to reduce carbon emission have seriously challenged coal supply in 2020 and led to power supply shortage in East China’s Jiangxi and Zhejiang and Central China’s Hunan before the latest blackout in Shanghai, which has not happened in over a decade.  

The abnormally cold winter over 2020-2021, therefore, may pose more challenges to the national grid.

Source : Mysteel Global