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Turkish 10% tariff on US coal likely to negate sulfur cap increase: utilities

A 10% tariff on US coal would likely negate the possible benefits of a Turkish sulfur cap increase expected implemented after Turkey’s snap elections next week, utility buyers from the country said.

The tariff is Turkey’s countermeasure against the US decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, among other countries.

“If a 10% increase is applicable, it won’t be sustainable,” said Sabri Oral, executive vice president of Odak, speaking at the Argus Mediterranean Solid Fuels conference in Lisbon.

The tax would be against the interests of the Turkish government as it would limit cheaper coals from the US coming into the power generation mix, Oral said.

Advocates of increasing the sulfur cap to 3% from its current limit of 1.2% have argued it would provide relief to a high-priced coal environment.

With CIF Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp prices nearing $100/mt and a sliding Turkish lira/dollar exchange rate, utility traders said the current coal environment was not sustainable and that allowing high sulfur supplies into the market would let cheaper US cargoes compete.

“US high sulfur coal prices are better for us,” said Omer Buger, contracts and planning manager at utility Eren Eerji.

Buger said current CIF ARA price should be around $20/mt lower than its current level for plants to operate more cost effectively, highlighting that buying coal in dollars and selling energy in lira is proving to be costly, especially with the latest movements in the exchange rate.

“US [coal] prices are advantageous compared to CIF ARA prices,” Buger said. One third of Turkish imports would be from the US when the cap was raised due to the cost effectiveness of that country’s coal, he estimated. BLENDING HIGHER AND LOWER SULFUR COALS

Under the proposed sulfur cap increase, utilities would be able to acquire coals with sulfur levels higher than 3% if blended with low sulfur coals.

Coals would need to average out to about 2% sulfur at the end of the year, sources have said.

Buger said the change should have been implemented a month ago, but had been postponed until after Sunday’s Turkish election.

“We are waiting for legalization,” Buger said, adding that Turkey’s economy ministry had already approved the change.

Mehmet Topeli, energy reporting and planning manager at utility iSKEN, said: “We have started preparation for importing high sulfur coal.”
Source: Platts

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