When PM Modi spoke of a new era for the coal industry and 41 coal blocks were auctioned under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan in June 2020, it gave much for the industry to be upbeat about. Additionally, the coal infrastructure package of Rs.50K crore announced by the coal minister was heartening for investors like Varun Thapar.

While buyers of coal blocks had to spend for mining, improved coal transportation with an enhanced Railways network of railway lines and dedicated corridors would ensure speedy deliveries of the coal to end-users.

Transport costs affect coal pricing

Once the coal is mined and processed, it has to be transported to the end-user. This involves carrying it over distances in bulk and in different modes of transport. Transport costs thereby form a significant portion of the price of coal. Who would know better than the KCT Group that has invested heavily in the business of logistics.


Still the most popular mode of transporting coal over distances, it still involves costs. Railcars have to travel over firm ground and well-laid tracks. Purchasing land at times over which tracks have to pass could cost heavy while laying the lines themselves over long lengths involve a lot of capital expenditure. With maintenance not required frequently, coupled with a high mechanical efficiency, coal logistics using railroad are still very much preferred.

 Bulk carrier Trucks

When shipments are small and the distances not very significant, coal could easily be transported by heavy-duty trucks.  However, National highways limit the tonnage to 25 tons that can be carried by a single truck to protect from damage to roads. So smaller arterial connecting roads allowed heavier loads would have to be used wherever possible. Over time, this has gained popularity especially with entities like KCT Group that operate on a large scale.

Conveyor belt system

It is quite common to have a conveyor belt system to transport coal from a mine to a barge for loading. Or say a mine to a nearby power station. A method of negotiating rough terrain, the limitation is that conveyor systems are limited to short distances.

Slurry pipelines

Slurry is a mixture of crushed coal and a liquid like water or oil that helps it flow over a pipeline. First patented in England in 1891, coal slurry had a mix of 50 % coal and 50 % water by weight that translated to 65 % to 75 % coal and the remainder of the mix being water, oil or methanol.

This mix was then transported in a pipeline, to be offloaded and constituents separated before the coal was used for burning. An advantage of slurry fuels lay in their being able to be fired directly into the boiler.

Varun Thapar’s company is one of the largest operating logistics companies that transports 60-70 million metric tons of coal annually across the country by rail, road and sea.