October 26, 2016 Read More →

Sharp Downturn in Export Rate of Dirtiest U.S. Coal

Ian Campbell and Taylor Kuykendall for SNL Beta:

U.S. exports of subbituminous coal are on pace to barely clear 2 million tons in 2016, which would represent a decline of more than 83% from 2013 when the industry had high hopes for the Powder River Basin to become a major thermal coal supplier to Asia.

An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data shows that the U.S. exported just below 1.4 million tons of subbituminous coal through August, putting the industry on track to ship 2.1 million tons for the full year. That number would be a far cry from 2013, when strong international coal demand drove U.S. subbituminous coal exports, primarily from the PRB, to a record 12.5 million tons. It has been all downhill since then, with subbituminous coal exports falling to 6.5 million tons in 2014, 5.2 million tons in 2015 and on track to be sharply lower in 2016.

As U.S. exports of subbituminous coal have declined, the customer base has also changed dramatically. For example, in 2013, South Korea was the foreign top buyer of U.S. subbituminous coal, taking about 3.7 million tons. That was several tons less than the 4.1 million tons exported to South Korea in 2012. However, through the first eight months of 2016, South Korea has only imported about 54,572 tons from the U.S.

Several countries that were once top importers of U.S. coal, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Netherlands and Italy have not imported any U.S. coal through August, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. Meanwhile, exports to Mexico increased dramatically, from zero tons in 2011 to 1.2 million tons of coal through August. Mexico was the largest importer of U.S. subbituminous coal through August, representing about 85% of subbituminous coal exports through August.

Full item: US subbituminous coal exports down sharply from 2013 peak

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