US coal exports extended their year-on-year gains in October but lagged the two-year highs set earlier in 2021.
Shipments to other countries rose to 7.26mn short tons (6.59mn metric tonnes) in October from 4.92mn st in October 2020, according to Commerce Department data. The latest month volumes compared with 6.59mn st in October 2019, the last year before Covid-19 struck. That put coal exports at a two-month high and about 7pc below the two-year high set in June 2021.
Shipments of all grades of coal were above year-earlier levels, when the global economy was still in the relatively early stages of climbing out of the economic contraction caused by initial Covid-19 mitigation measures. But only coking coal, anthracite and sub-bituminous coal topped October 2019 shipments.
Bituminous thermal coal exports rose to 2.34mn st from 1.51mn st a year earlier, but were off by about 12pc from October 2019. That dragged on total steam coal shipments, which came in at 2.88mn st, compared with 1.63mn st in October 2020 and 3.07mn st a year before that.
For the second time in a row, thermal coal shipments to India lagged both 2020 and 2019 levels. The US shipped 570,179st of steam coal to India, down from 624,541st in October 2020 and 868,406st in the same month of the year before that.
US coal to India started to lose its competitive advantage against other coals and petroleum coke late in the third quarter as US coal prices climbed to multi-year highs. US export prices have since fallen, but so have prices for coal from other origins, as well as petroleum coke. In addition, spot US coal supply remains limited.
India still was the top destination for US steam coal, followed by the Netherlands, which was destined to take in 518,192st in October. The last time US thermal coal exports to the Netherlands were higher was in June 2019.
Thermal coal exports to Japan climbed to 504,870st from 283,329st a year earlier and 372,417st in October 2019.
Some of the increase in exports to Japan was tied to sub-bituminous coal. The US shipped 216,016st of sub-bituminous coal to Japan in October, up from 84,522st a year earlier and zero in October 2019.
Sub-bituminous coal exports to South Korea also rose, to 196,310st from zero in October 2020, but were below October 2019’s 216,000st.
Total sub-bituminous coal exports climbed to 472,452st from 84,522st a year earlier and 404,167st in October 2019. Outside of Japan and South Korea, the US also shipped sub-bituminous coal to Spain, Canada and Chile.
On the metallurgical front, exports climbed to 4.38mn st from 3.29mn st a year earlier and 3.52mn st in October 2019. The increases were led by shipments to China, which climbed to 1.04mn st from zero in October 2020 and 61,730st a year before that.
Coking coal exports to Japan and the Netherlands also topped October 2020 and 2019 levels, while shipments to Canada increased to 461,358st from 424,620st a year earlier but were down from 463,637st in October 2019.
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- On December 9, 2021