US coal exports rose for a 22nd straight month on steady Asian and European thermal coal demand.
Shipments from US ports climbed to a little over 10mn short tons (9.12mn metric tonnes) from 8.59mn st a year earlier. On a year-to-date basis, exports rose to 77.7mn st from 60.1mn st. That kept 2018 on track to become a five-year high for coal exports.
The gains were fueled by thermal coal shipments, which climbed to 4.38mn st from 3.5mn st. In the first eight months of the year, 35.4mn st of steam coal left the US, the most since 2013, as buyers in Asia and parts of the Middle East took a greater interest in US coal and prices remained high enough for producers to make a larger profit overseas.
Metallurgical exports also increased, to 5.67mn st in August and 42.3mn st year-to-date, from 5.09mn st and 35.3mn st a year earlier.
Exports are likely to continue to be elevated through at least early this quarter. Benchmark prices for 6,000 kcal/kg thermal coal going to Europe have hovered around $100/t cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp since early July. Export prices of a similar calorific coal out of Australia have cooled to $112.51/t fob Newcastle from as high as $119.05/t in the middle of July.
Meanwhile, metallurgical coal prices have risen. Most recently, a fire at Peabody Energy’s North Goonyella mine in Australia caused US and Asian markets to soar as participants grew concerned about disruptions to short-term supplies. Premium low-volatile hard coking coal out of Australia rose by $8.45/t on 2 October to $212.85/t and inched up again at the end of the week, to $213.40/t.
US low volatile coking coal rose by $5/t in the week ended 2 October, to $195/t fob Hampton Roads. Even before that, prices were 8pc higher than they had been during the summer amid limited supply.
Asia remained the top destination for US thermal coal. Roughly 2.03mn st of US product was shipped to the continent in August, up from 1.36mn st a year earlier.
Steam coal exports to India increased to 877,919st from 646,602st in August 2017. Shipments to South Korea and Japan, increased to 635,789st and 451,842st from 572,462st and 137,383st a year earlier.
Most of the thermal exports to Korea were sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River basin. Japan took some PRB as well, but slightly more bituminous steam coal.
Steam coal exports to Europe increased to 1.23mn st from 1.13mn st.
Europe remained the largest destination for US metallurgical coal, with 2.68mn st going to the continent in August. That was up from 2.11mn st in August 2017.
Coking coal exports to Asia slipped to 1.53mn st from 1.83mn st.
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- On October 9, 2018