US coal exports rose in September despite disruptions
US coal exports continued to rise from year-earlier levels in September even as one of the main exit points for thermal coal experienced extensive disruptions.
Shipments out of the US climbed to 6.52mn short tons (5.91mn metric tonnes) from 5.37mn st in September 2020, according to US Census Bureau data released today. Both metallurgical and thermal coal were higher than they had been a year earlier.
Exports to every continent were higher in September than they had been a year earlier, reflecting the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, increased coal-fired generation in a number of countries and rising prices that have made coal exports more profitable for US sellers.
But volumes still were about 1.2mn st lower than in September 2019. Shipments also were off from August’s 7.69mn st, which had been the second-highest level since the start of the pandemic and was less than 1pc lower than in August 2019.
Some of the month-on-month decrease compared with September 2019 was likely tied to the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Coal terminals in New Orleans did not start reopening for business until the middle of the month, two weeks after the storm hit, as the region grappled with widespread flooding and power outages. And at least one terminal, Host’s United Bulk Terminals, was still operating at a reduced rate in October because of damage caused to the terminal.
Coal shipments out of New Orleans were at an 11-month low of 384,255st in September. They were still 37pc higher than in September 2020. Nearly all of the coal shipped from New Orleans was thermal coal.
Some thermal coal that was scheduled to go out of New Orleans was diverted to other ports. Steam coal exports out of Mobile, Alabama, climbed to 303,924st last month from zero a year earlier. That offset a 46pc decrease in metallurgical coal shipments from Mobile largely tied to a strike at Warrior Met Coal that is now in its eighth month.
Total US thermal coal exports increased to 2.77mn st in September from 1.83mn st a year earlier.
Northeast Asia was the primary destination for US thermal coal. Steam coal exports to North Korea climbed to 528,435st from 184,455st a year earlier. And shipments to Japan and China rose to 338,573st and 128,771st, respectively, from 84,249st and essentially nothing in September 2020.
US thermal coal exports to India fell in September to 543,307st from 945,707st a year earlier.
Closer to the Atlantic basin, steam coal exports to Egypt and Morocco rose to a combined 507,374st in September from 70,545st a year earlier.
Thermal coal shipments to Europe increased to 327,632st from 212,521st in September 2020. And shipments to Central and South America increased to 277,323st from 161,220st.
When compared with September 2019, US steam coal exports to Asia and Africa were up by 16pc and 3pc, respectively. Thermal coal exports to Central and South America were double what they had been two years’ prior. But those gains were outweighed by decreases in exports to Europe, Canada and Mexico.
Metallurgical coal exports followed a similar trajectory as thermal coal. Shipments rose to 3.74mn st in September from 3.54mn st a year earlier, but were about 12pc lower than they had been in August and also were nearly 1mn st lower than they had been in September 2019.
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- On November 9, 2021