US thermal coal exports in April climbed from a year earlier, when much of the world had lockdowns in place to combat Covid-19, but eased from March’s 26-month high.
Just under 3.1mn short tons (2.81mn metric tonnes) of steam coal was shipped from US ports in April, Census Bureau data show. That was almost 1.1mn st more than in April 2020 but lagged March 2021’s 4.2mn st.
The decrease between March and April follows patterns of the past five years. April thermal coal exports also were about 20pc lower than they had been in the same month of 2019, when global demand was weakening and export prices declining. Market conditions continued to weaken through early 2020 but then plummeted further from April through October as global economies faltered in the initial wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Market conditions for US thermal coal have generally strengthened since the end of last year, with steady demand from some countries and tight supply out of Colombia, Australia and South Africa. In addition, the spread between high-sulfur US coal and low-sulfur coals is near record levels, possibly drawing even more buyers to coal out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Baltimore, Maryland.
April thermal coal shipments out of New Orleans climbed to 871,568st from 74,539st a year earlier and was nearly flat with April 2019’s 875,264st. Steam coal exports out of the port had reached a 24-month high in March.
Similarly, steam coal exports out of Baltimore, Maryland, rose to 1.27mn st from 844,665st a year earlier but were lower than April 2019’s 1.38mn st.
India, which takes primarily high-sulfur steam coal from the US, remained the primary destination for US thermal coal in April despite being in the midst of a surge of Covid-19 cases that has slowed economic activity. The US shipped 1.15mn st of steam coal to the country in April, compared with 481,196st a year earlier and 1.18mn st in April 2019.
Thermal coal exports to India were split between Baltimore which shipped 1.01mn st to India in April, and New Orleans, which shipped 138,0972st.
After India, South Korea was the second-largest destination for US thermal coal, with 334,254st heading to the country in April. The US exported 283,277st of steam coal to South Korea in April 2020 and 297,798st a year before that.
Total US steam coal exports to Asia climbed to just under 1.8mn st from 1.2mn st a year earlier, but were slightly below the 1.87mn st shipped in April 2019.
US thermal coal exports to Europe edged up to 284,920st from 280,220st in April 2020. But the most recent total was still 63pc lower than steam coal shipments to the continent had been in April 2019.
Steam coal exports to South America also increased from April 2020 levels. That helped offset a 29pc drop in thermal coal shipments to Central America, to 243,054st, as well as a decrease in exports to Mexico.
Total US coal exports increased to 6.81mn st in April from 5.55mn st a year earlier. But shipments were 21pc lower than they had been in April 2019.
Metallurgical coal exports edged up to 3.71mn st from 3.52mn st a year earlier.
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- On June 10, 2021