US thermal coal exports reached a 13-month high in April as international buyers sought to restock supply and some US coals held larger competitive price advantages to other seaborne markets.
A total 3.82mn short tons (3.47mn metric tonnes) of steam coal departed US ports during the month, up from 3.13mn st in April 2021, according to US Commerce Department data released today. The last time shipments were higher was in March 2021.
The year-on-year increase in shipments smoothed over the two previous months of declines and was dominated by a jump in exports to Europe. US thermal coal volumes to the continent roughly quadrupled from a year earlier to 1.16mn st in April 2022 as buyers in Europe pushed to diversify away from Russian coal and US high-sulfur coal was priced at a wide discount to other coal production.
In March, prompt two-month shipments of 11,300 Btu/lb typical 3pc sulfur coal from New Orleans to Rotterdam held an average $67/t discount to 6,000 kcal/kg coal from Puerto Bolivar to Rotterdam and an $85/t discount to Richards Bay, South Africa coal, Argus assessments show. A year earlier, the differences between the coals was closer to $10/t for Colombian coal and $37/t for South African coal.
The spreads between New Orleans, Colombian and South African net-forwards has continued to widen recently, to average around $90-$100/t in May. That could continue to support US movements to Europe. But European buyers will need lower-sulfur coals like those from Colombia and South Africa to blend with coal out of New Orleans or Baltimore, Maryland, and the continent’s appetite for coal in general has eased following recent gains in stockpiles.
Shipments to Europe in April were lower than March’s 1.51mn st, which was the highest since November 2018.
In April, more than half of the US thermal coal headed to Europe was en route to the Netherlands and Germany. Another 184,349st was headed to the UK and 136,003st went to Poland. Cargoes also went to Denmark, Croatia and France.
US steam coal exports to Africa, Canada and Mexico also climbed from year-earlier levels. That offset the fourth straight month of year-on-year decreases in shipments to Asia.
Thermal coal exports to India fell to 642,025st in April from a revised 1.28mn st a year earlier. That was the primary driver of declines in US shipments to Asia.
US steam coal exports to South Korea and Japan climbed to 620,377st and 504,378st, respectively, from 334,254st and 248,384st in April 2021.
US metallurgical coal exports also rose in April, to 4.23mn st from 3.71mn st. Coking coal shipments everywhere except within North America were higher than they had been a year earlier.
Total US exports climbed to 8.05mn st from 6.84mn st in April 2021.
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- On June 9, 2022