US steam coal exports for July climbed off of the nearly four-year low set in July 2020 as demand and prices continued to climb.
Thermal coal shipments totaled 3.12mn short tons (2.74mn metric tonnes) in July, Census Bureau data released today show. That was more than double the 1.61mn st exported in July 2020, when much of the world was contending with global economic weakness brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Exports were also about 3pc above July 2019 levels.
The rise in thermal coal exports offset a decrease in metallurgical coal shipments, which slipped to 3.39mn st from 3.74mn st in July 2020. Total US coal volumes climbed to 6.51mn st in July from 5.34mn st a year earlier.
Steam coal shipments to almost every continent were higher in July than they had been a year earlier. The exception was South America, where just 50,621st of thermal coal was headed, compared with 167,188st in July 2020.
Thermal coal exports to Asia climbed to 1.31mn st from 491,912st. That was led by a jump in exports to India and countries in northeast Asia, including an influx of sub-bituminous coal to South Korea (see chart).
Sub-bituminous exports to South Korea reached a two-year high of 529,672st as coal-fired generation in the country showed signs of recovery.
Bituminous thermal coal exports to the country decreased, likely reflecting competition with supply from Australia, Russia and other sources closer to South Korea. But the decrease in US shipments to South Korea was offset by gains to Japan, China, Singapore and India.
Elsewhere, Africa was the second-largest destination for US thermal coal, with shipments climbing to 694,262st in July from 339,150st a year earlier. Exports to Egypt climbed to 507,974st from 190,338st a year earlier. Shipments to Morocco, Togo and Congo also rose.
Thermal coal exports to Europe rose to 666,123st from 391,666st a year earlier. This was mostly coal shipped out of New Orleans, Louisiana, which quintupled to 423,654st. Steam coal exports from Baltimore, Maryland, to Europe also rose.
Until recently, prices for US high-sulfur coal have risen less dramatically than those for low-sulfur coal from competing countries. Prompt two-month shipments of 11,300 Btu/lb typical 3pc sulfur coal averaged $61.76/t fob New Orleans in June and $70.69/t in July. The landed costs in Europe after adding freight would have been $87.26/t and $102.57/t for those months, which was 24-30pc below the June and July averages for Argus’ 6,000 kcal/kg cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp assessment.
But the rate of increase for high-sulfur coal prices has picked up pace in recent weeks amid tight supply.
US exports for part of August and September may be further weighed down in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which landed in south Louisiana on 29 August as a category 4 hurricane and knocked out power to large sections of the state. The US Coast Guard opened most of the lower Mississippi river and ports in the state to vessel traffic late yesterday, but restrictions remain in some places.
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- On September 14, 2021