US thermal coal exports reached a six-month high in December, as shipments to parts of Africa, northern Asia and Europe climbed.
Steam coal volumes heading out of the US totaled 3.44mn short tons (3.12mn metric tonnes) in the last month of 2021, up from just under 3mn st a year earlier and 3.1mn st in November 2021, according to US Commerce Department data released today. Thermal coal exports also topped December 2019’s 2.37mn st.
The last time steam coal exports were higher than they were in December 2021 was in June 2021, when they totaled 3.57mn st.
The year-over-year increases in thermal coal shipments for December outweighed declines in metallurgical coal volumes to bring total US coal exports up to 7.4mn st from 7.09mn st in December 2020 and 6.52mn st in December 2019. Exports for all of 2021 climbed to 85.2mn st from 69.1mn st in 2020 but were almost 10pc below what they had been in all of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic started to curb global business activity.
The thermal coal export pattern for December continued to show a shift away from India. At the same time, other countries looked to the US to fill some positions following greater than expected coal consumption and supply disruptions in a number of coal producing countries.
US steam coal exports to Canada and the UK were the highest since June 2015 and November 2018, respectively, although each made up less than 8pc of the US total. Shipments to Germany were at a four-month high of 174,150st and compared with zero in December 2020, while exports to Japan reached a six-month high of 570,039st from 410,613st in December 2020.
US steam coal exports to South Korea also rose from a year earlier, to 439,942st from 99,631st. But the volumes lagged November 2021. Similarly, exports to Morocco nearly tripled from December 2020 to 207,134st but were below the November 2021 level.
Meanwhile, thermal coal shipments to India slipped to 742,718st from 1.09mn st a year earlier and 791,247st in November 2021. December was the fourth straight month that US steam coal exports to India declined from year-earlier levels.
India consumed more coal last year, but it [relied more heavily on domestic output]( https://direct.argusmedia.com/newsandanalysis/article/2292551) and on petroleum coke as seaborne coal prices climbed.
Still, for all of 2021, US thermal coal exports to India rose to 11.8mn st from 8.4mn st in 2020 and 8.67mn st in 2019.
Total US steam coal exports climbed to 39.9mn st last year from 27.1mn st year earlier but were down from 40.9mn st in 2019.
Metallurgical coal exports totaled 45.3mn st last year, compared with 42mn st in 2020 and 52.8mn st in 2019. In December, US coking coal shipments deceased to 3.95mn st from 4.1mn st a year earlier and 4.15mn st in December 2019.
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- On February 10, 2022