US coal exports reached a two-year high in June, helped by a surge in shipments to China, India and Japan.
A total 7.84mn short tons (7.1mn metric tonnes) of coal left US ports during the month, US Census data released today show. The last time exports were higher was in June 2019.
Exports for the first half of 2021 also were at a two-year high of 42.8mn st. Thermal coal shipments for January-June stood at 20.8mn st, which was 46pc above first-half 2020 levels but still about 2.4mn st lower than in the first half of 2019. Metallurgical coal exports were a little under 22.1mn st in the first half, compared with 20.6mn st a year earlier and 27.9mn st in January-June 2019.
Coking coal shipments benefited from greater demand from China, which still has in place an informal ban on Australian imports. The US shipped 1.58mn st of metallurgical coal to China in June, compared with zero a year earlier. For the first half of 2021, US coking coal exports to China climbed to 4.87mn st from 531,317st last year.
Total US coal exports to China increased to 1.65mn st in June, the most since March 2013, from a trace amount in the same month of 2020, and to 5.43mn st in the first half of the year from 531,803st a year earlier.
Exports to India accounted for the greatest year-over-year volume increase for US thermal coal in June. The US shipped 940,938st of steam coal to India. That was the least for any month since January but still more than four times what the US sent to India in June 2020.
Economic activity in India has been restrained in recent months by a second wave of Covid-19 and the monsoon season, but the pace is more robust than it was last year. India’s cement output in June was 4pc higher than it had been a year earlier, according to preliminary government data.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, US steam coal exports to Japan reached a 25-year high of 575,217st in June, compared with 157,265st a year earlier. The last time monthly thermal shipments to the country were higher was in April 1996.
Coking coal exports to India and Japan also were above year earlier levels, but not as great as thermal coal shipments.
The gains in exports to China, India and Japan outweighed a 39pc decrease in shipments to South Korea to bring total US volumes to Asia up to 4.53mn st in June from 1.52mn st a year earlier. Volumes to Asia for the first half of this year climbed to 21.8mn st, with steam coal totaling just over 13mn st and metallurgical coal 8.8mn st.
US coal exports to Europe also were higher in June than they had been in the same period of 2020. That was primarily because of thermal coal, which climbed to 537,043st during the month and 2.75mn st for January-June, respectively, from 457,301st and 1.62mn st a year earlier.
Total exports to Europe increased to 1.67mn st in June from 1.56mn st a year earlier. For the first half of 2021, shipments to the continent were essentially flat with the same period of 2020 at 11.3mn st.
Steam coal shipments to Europe may continue to climb in coming months. Gas prices have remained firm amid limited supply, which has given some coal-fired generation a competitive advantage. Coal consumption in western Europe almost doubled in July when compared with a year earlier.
US exports to Africa increased to 367,297st in June from 266,157st a year earlier, and were entirely thermal coal. Most of the shipments went to Egypt.
US exports to Central and South America increased as well. Thermal coal exports rose to 548,619st from 373,689st in June 2020 as increased volumes to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Guatemala outpaced decreases in shipments to Brazil and Chile.
Coking coal shipments to Central America fell in June, but were partially offset by increased volumes to South America.
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- On August 17, 2021