Rhine Water Depth Falls to Extremely Low Levels

Rhine Water Depth Falls to Extremely Low Levels
The Rhine is a key transit route for coal and diesel.

The sustained hot and dry weather in recent months has caused the water depth in the Rhine to fall to extremely low levels.

That’s what Standard Chartered analysts stated in a new market note sent to Rigzone, adding that the Rhine is a key transit route for coal and diesel, “both of which have become significant substitutes for gas”.

“The clearance above typical draft at the key transit point of Kaub, west of Frankfurt, has halved in the past fortnight, and was recorded at just 0.31 meters on 16 August; 1.422 meters below the five-year average, and the lowest since November 2018 according to data from the German Federal Institute of Hydrology,” the analysts stated in the note.

“This is a measurement of navigability and is equivalent to a channel depth of 1.43 meters; 0.3 meters of clearance would be too shallow for most full-laden barges. In order to facilitate transit and avoid grounding, vessels have to reduce their loads, affecting the economics,” the note added.

“Draft regulations by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) would prioritize energy-related shipments including hard coal by rail transportation. Economy Minister Robert Habeck stated, ‘we need extraordinary measures to ensure supply security’,” the Standard Chartered note continued.

In a separate statement sent to Rigzone on Tuesday, Rystad Energy analyst Lu Ming Pang said the Rhine has seen river levels falling to lows where the threshold for safe river traffic through the channel may be exceeded.

“While there are no fixed regulations in place, ship operators must decide for themselves whether river freight can continue in shallow river depths, depending on the size and tonnage of their vessels,” Pang said in the statement.

“This has resulted in both logistical and operational issues at power plants that rely on the river. With barges unable to transport coal and diesel through their usual routes on the Rhine, power plants may have to resort to other modes of transport or risk-reducing output generation due to reduced feed flows,” Pang added.

“To make matters worse, the warm temperatures have rendered cooling operations at riverside power stations inefficient, possibly causing reduced output generation without adequate cooling. The reduction in water levels has also stopped several nuclear power plants from drawing more water from the river for crucial cooling processes,” Pang continued.

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com


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