A total of 9.29mn short tons (8.42mn metric tonnes) of coal left US ports at the start of this year, according to Census Bureau data released today. That was up from 8.77mn st in January 2018 and the most since October.
The increase was led by gains in steam coal shipments, which climbed to 4.49mn st from 4.2mn st and spread through most continents. Metallurgical coal export gains were primarily in Europe and Africa.
Coal exports to Europe rose to 3.52mn st from 2.68mn st. That was primarily a function of increased coking coal shipments, which rose to 2.17mn st from 1.54mn st.
Steam coal volumes to Europe increased to 1.35mn st from 1.14mn st as countries there took deliveries booked in previous months, when demand and prices were higher.
Thermal coal exports to Europe may have declined since then. Seaborne prices are below the levels at which US producers can make a profit, with prompt two-month deliveries of 6,000 kcal/kg coal to Europe averaging $69.87/t cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) from 1-26 March.
Weak power demand has kept port stocks in the ARA region elevated this quarter.
Coal-fired generation in Germany, France, Spain and the UK was 10pc lower in January and February than it had been a year earlier and is understood to still be restrained in March. Coal-fired generation in Germany has averaged 4.21GW so far this month, down from 11.03GW in March 2018.
Inventories at the four main ARA terminals reached a four-month high of 6.62mn t on 26 March as utilities had ample supply at their power plants and little reason to draw on port supplies.
US steam coal exports to the Netherlands inched up to 573,411st in January from 486,529st a year earlier. Shipments to Germany increased to 155,414st from 83,671st.
Thermal coal exports to Asia rose to 2.08mn st from 1.94mn st. That was driven by a recovery in shipments to India, to 1.22mn st from 917,979st, after year-over-year declines the previous two months.
Steam coal exports to two other primary Asian destinations for US coal moved in mixed directions. Shipments to South Korea declined, while volumes to Japan increased.
Coking coal shipments to Asia dropped to 1.44mn st from 1.62mn st in January 2018. That dragged down total US exports to the continent to 3.51mn st from 3.55mn st.
The decrease in metallurgical coal exports to Asia might be temporary. Supply to the continent has been constrained by recent cyclones and the ongoing disruption at Peabody Energy’s North Goonyella mine in Australia.
And, while seaborne prices have softened, they remain at levels at which US coking coal producers can make a profit. Argus assessed prompt 90-day shipments of low-volatile coking coal at $184.50/t fob Hampton Roads yesterday. High-volatile type A coal stood at $201/t and type B at $165/t.
Coal exports to Africa rose to 826,130st from 609,935st as coking coal shipments more than quadrupled to 287,554st. Steam coal shipments to the continent dipped.
Metallurgical coal exports to Central and South America increased to 865,554st from 809,998st. Thermal coal shipments to those regions also increased, to 264,615st from 240,685st.
View article here.
- On March 28, 2019