US coal exports ended 2020 on a high note, rising on a year over year basis for the first time since January 2019.
A little over 7mn short tons (6.35mn metric tonnes) of coal left US ports in December, US Census Bureau data released today showed. That was little changed from November 2020 but a 7.9pc increase from December 2019.
Shipments for the end of last year benefited from favorable comparisons with 2019, when exports already were starting to falter, as well as growing demand as industrial production recovered from the economic collapse brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and cold weather supported electric power generation. Similar dynamics have continued into this year, which could support exports for at least the first quarter.
Exports for all of 2020 dropped to 69.1mn st from 93.8mn st in 2019, with both thermal and metallurgical coal declining.
For December, metallurgical coal exports climbed to 4.1mn st, a nine-month high. But they were slightly down from the 4.19mn st recorded in December 2019.
US thermal coal exports, meanwhile, rose on a year-over-year basis for the second straight month, to 2.9mn st from 2.3mn st in December 2019.
The gains in steam coal exports were led by shipments to Asia, which more than doubled to 1.54mn st from 764,156st.
Exports to India jumped to 1.09mn st from 232,965st.
High-sulfur US coal continued to price favorably into India against petroleum coke through the end of last year even as freight rates rose. Most US thermal coal exports to India came from Baltimore, Maryland, the primary outlet for Northern Appalachia coal. Another 207,731 st cam from New Orleans, Louisiana, the main exit point for Illinois basin coal.
In addition, thermal coal exports to Japan reached an eight-month high of 346,190st in December, up from 302,243st. That suggests utilities were starting to restock ahead of a colder-than-expected start to winter.
US steam coal exports to Central and South America also rose, to 512,079st from 101,075st. That was led by continued increases in shipments to the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Brazil.
The US also shipped 22,046t of steam coal to Costa Rica, the most sent to that country in at least three years.
Thermal coal shipments to all other continents declined.
Steam coal export to Europe fell to 491,221 st from 589,550t in December 2019. And shipments to Africa plunged to 173,870st from 628,001st.
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- On February 9, 2021