US thermal coal exports jumped to their highest level in five-and-a-half years in September.
Just under 5.4mn short tons (4.9mn metric tonnes) of steam coal left US ports during the month, the most since March 2013. That was 7.5pc higher than September 2017’s 3.54mn st.
The increase follows a resurgence in demand and prices in July and August. Prompt two-month deliveries of 6,000 kcal/kg coal to Europe climbed above $100/t cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp in early July for the first time in more than six years and hovered around that level for most of the rest of the summer. At the same time, 6,000 kcal/kg exports out of Australia – a marker for US western bituminous coal exports – held near multi-year highs of $113-$199/t fob.
Markets have cooled off recently, particularly as petroleum coke has started pricing into India at levels that are competitive with high-sulfur US coal. But US participants are hopeful that conditions will remain hospitable through at least early 2019.
Alliance Resource Partners projected earlier this week that exports next year will exceed 2018 levels.
Steam coal exports to India jumped to 1.44mn st in September, a five-month high, from 649,165st a year earlier. That kept the country as the biggest destination for US thermal coal.
The Netherlands was the second-largest destination, with steam coal exports there nearly doubling to 930,960st from 471,175st.
In total, US thermal coal exports to Asia rose to 2.45mn st from 1.58mn st in September 2017. Aside from India, exports to Korea increased to 513,779mn st from 360,227st and shipments to Japan jumped to 496,564st from 230,170st.
Steam coal shipments to Europe climbed to 1.95mn st from 1.13mn st. Volumes headed to the UK increased more than five-fold to 507,171st from 97,906st. That offset decreases in exports to Germany and Italy.
US metallurgical coal exports decreased during the month, to 4.09mn st from 5.29mn st. Some of that may be a reflection of Hurricane Florence, which shut down the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, for three days and temporarily disrupted rail traffic from some mines to eastern ports.
Coking coal shipments out of Norfolk, Virginia, fell to 2.33mn st in September from 2.91mn st a year earlier. But exports out of Baltimore, Maryland, and Mobile, Alabama – the other two primary exit points for US metallurgical coal – also declined, to 520,181st and 691,863st, respectively, from 1.14mn st and 779,644st in September 2017.
Warrior Met Coal, which ships most of its coking coal production out of Mobile, said a tropical storm in the US Gulf coast caused a “slight delay” in shipments in September. Maintenance on inland waterways and some train derailments also slowed movement of the company’s coal from mines to the port.
Otherwise, Warrior has benefited from recent price increases, “a tight supply/demand balance and favorable Chinese policies,” chief executive Walter Scheller said on 31 October.
Higher prices offset some of the decline in total coking coal volumes, bringing the value of exports to $554mn, or $149.46/t, from $665.4mn, or $138.78/t in September 2017.
The value of thermal coal exports jumped to $539.7mn, or $70.64/t, from $208.9mn, or $65.05/t, a year earlier.
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- On November 2, 2018