Coal is the only significant indigenous energy resource in the Czech Republic. The country’s coal resources have been estimated at some 2.4 billion tonnes. Brown coal, which accounts for more than 70 % of these resources, is mainly produced in north-western Bohemia, whilst hard coal is mined in northern Moravia. Hard coal is exported in significant quantities to Slovakia, Austria and Poland.
Primary energy consumption, which amounted to 62.9 Mtce in 2010, was supplied as follows: 41% coal (total 25.5 Mtce, of which hard coal 6.5 Mtce and brown coal 19.0 Mtce), 19% natural gas (11.7 Mtce) and 20% oil (12.9 Mtce). This primary energy mix is supplemented by nuclear energy with a 17% share (10.4 Mtce), as well as by renewables and hydroelectric power, which together account for some 6% (4.0 Mtce), less a net export of electricity.
The Czech Republic’s dependence on energy imports has been quite modest to date; 27% of energy demand is met by imports. However, imports are structurally unbalanced. The country’s dependence on oil is about 97%, and in the case of natural gas it is about 96%. The country’s dependence on energy imports is expected to grow to almost 50% by 2020. A number of direct and indirect measures must therefore be adopted to slow down this shift. Key measures are increased energy efficiency, the promotion of renewable energy sources in areas where they are effective to reach a 13 % share in final energy consumption in 2020, and improving the availability and potential life span of indigenous solid fuel resources, mainly brown coal.
In 2010, approximately 57 % of the total gross electricity production (85.9 TWh) was generated from coal, 33 % from nuclear energy and 7 % from renewable sources. Conventional coal-fired power stations have a total capacity of approximately 10.8 GW. The Czech electricity market has been fully liberalised since 2006 and the gas market since 2007.
There are four coal mining companies in the Czech Republic: OSTRAVSKO-KARVINSKÉ DOLY, the only hard coal producer, and three brown coal companies, SEVEROČESKÉ DOLY, the biggest producer of brown coal, the CZECH COAL GROUP, with the largest brown coal reserves in the Czech Republic, and SOKOLOVSKÁ UHELNÁ, the smallest brown coal company. With the exception of SEVEROČESKÉ DOLY, which is part of the state-owned ČEZ GROUP, all coal mining companies have been privatised. In 2010, the State held a stake of approximately 70% in the ČEZ Group. ČEZ is the largest coal consumer in the Czech Republic and the most important Czech supplier of electricity, meeting more than 72% of national electricity demand.
The Czech Republic has 206 million tonnes of economically recoverable hard coal reserves. The largest hard coal deposits are located in the Upper Silesian basin. With an area of 6,500 square kilometres, this coal basin ranks among the largest in Europe. A major part is located in Poland, while about one sixth (1,200 square kilometres) lies in the Czech Republic where it is called the Ostrava-Karviná Basin (after the city of Ostrava and the town of Karviná). Here, OSTRAVSKOKARVINSKÉ DOLY (OKD) extracts hard coal from deep mines. In 2010, saleable output was 11.4 million tonnes, with a workforce of 13,706. Coal is currently extracted at four deep mines: Karviná, ČSM, Darkov and Paskov. The worked seams in Ostrava at Paskov colliery range in thickness from 0.8 to 1.6 metres. The thicknesses of the Karviná seams range from 1.5 to 6.5 metres. Longwall working with shearer loaders (90.2%) and ploughs (9.8%) is employed, combined with controlled caving. Mechanical supports (95.1%) and individual hydraulic props (4.9 %) are used to support the coalfaces. At each of the collieries, the extracted coal is processed in preparation plants where it is graded as coking coal or steam coal, based on its quality parameters.
Brown coal and lignite
The Czech Republic has 863 million tonnes of economically recoverable brown coal and lignite reserves. In addition to a coal basin in northern Bohemia, another near the town of Sokolov and one in southern Moravia, there are also coalfields in the south of the country, although the latter are not economically viable. Indeed, lignite production in southern Moravia was stopped in 2010. Elsewhere, production of brown coal totalled 43.8 million tonnes in 2010, providing an important contribution to the country’s energy supply. Despite its importance, brown coal and lignite production in the Czech Republic have decreased by around 1.5 million tonnes per year over the last five years.
The main brown coal deposit and the largest mining area, covering 1,400 square kilometres, is the Northern Bohemian Brown Coal Basin, which is located among the foothills of the Krušné hory mountains, along the national border with Germany (Saxony), in the vicinity of the towns of Kadaň, Chomutov, Most, Teplice and Ústí nad Labem. The seams in this area extend to depths up to 400 metres and are between 15 and 30 metres thick.
Brown coal is extracted in the central part of the Northern Bohemian Brown Coal Basin by two mining companies, VRŠANSKÁ UHLENÁ and LITVÍNOVSKÁ UHELNÁ, both members of the CZECH COAL GROUP. In 2010, these mining companies extracted 13.5 million tonnes of brown coal from two surface mines, ČSA (4.6 million tonnes) and Vršany (8.9 million tonnes). The Vršany site contains enough coal reserves to last until 2055. At the ČSA site, coal within current mining limits will last only until 2022. However, beyond the mining limits lie an estimated 750 million tonnes of high-quality brown coal, which would enable coal mining to 2100 and beyond.
The CZECH COAL GROUP also owns the only deep brown coal mine in the Czech Republic, Centrum, where some 300 employees extracted about 0.4 million tonnes of brown coal in 2010.
After extraction, the brown coal is processed at the Komořany preparation plant, which supplies a broad range of coal products. Graded, pulverised and single-purpose products are delivered to power stations, the heat supply industry and households. Fuels blended for the energy sector are supplied to ČEZ power stations (Počerady, Chvaletice, Mělník II, Poříčíand Hodonín) and to the Opatovice power station. In 2010, the mining companies of the CZECH COAL GROUP had a total workforce of 2,776.
The Chomutov-based brown coal company SEVEROČESKÉ UHELNÉ DOLY (SD) operates in the north-western part of the Northern Bohemian Brown Coal Basin, to the east of the town of Most. SD extracts brown coal at two sites, namely Doly Nástup Tušimice and Doly Bílina. A total of 21.5 million tonnes was produced in 2010, increasing SD’s market share to almost 50% of national brown coal production.
The Doly Nástup Tušimice brown coal mining area is located between the towns of Chomutov and Kadaň and consists of one large surface mine with an average annual output of 13 million tonnes. After preparation at the Tušimice crushing plant, most of the product is supplied to power stations operated by ČEZ.
The Bílina brown coal mining area has just one surface mine, Bílina, located between the towns of Bílina and Duchcov. More than 9.5 million tonnes of brown coal are produced each year and transported to the Ledvice preparation plant before being delivered to power stations, industries and households. In 2010, SD had a total workforce of 3,466.
Located in western Bohemia, in the western part of the coalfield below the Krušné hory mountains, the brown coal basin around the town of Sokolov is mined by SOKOLOVSKÁ UHELNÁ (SU).The company operates two surface mines, the Družba and Jiří mines. In 2010, output was 8.6 million tonnes.
SU’s key products include electricity and heat, graded coal, steam coal and chemical products produced during coal gasification. Brown coal from the Sokolov area is mainly used for power and heat generation. SU generates electricity in two of its own power plants: the Vřesová IGCC plant (2 x 200 MWe) and a CHP plant (5 x 270 MWth), which have a combined annual output of 3.5 TWh. Most of the heat produced is consumed by the company itself, although some is supplied to the towns of Karlový Vary, Nejdek, Chodov and Nová Role. The company also pursues environmental activities, notably the reclamation of land affected by surface mining, and waste processing and disposal. SU’s operations employed a total workforce of 4,439 in 2010.
A smaller deposit of some 200 million tonnes of workable lignite is located in southern Moravia near the town of Hodonín. In Czech terminology, lignite is a variety of brown coal with the lowest degree of coalification. Additional lignite reserves are also found near the town of Břeclav. Here, lignite with calorific values of between 8 MJ/kg and 11 MJ/kg is found at a depth of 120 to 250 metres. LIGNIT HODONÍN produced approximately 0.5 million tonnes of lignite per year from underground mines. In 2010, 97 % of the production was delivered to the Hodonín power station, while the remainder was used by households. However, lignite production has now stopped.
The Czech brown coal industry has always played an important role in the national economy. According to the current National Energy Concept, coal is expected to remain an important energy resource in the Czech Republic until 2030. The concept, currently being updated, recommends that the long-term availability of coal reserves be ensured, while also examining the options for extraction outside the mining limits imposed by the Czech government in 1991.