US coal output rises from 2022 on export demand
US coal production has increased slightly this year from the same time in 2022 as export volumes have risen, US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates show.
US coal production totaled 129.1mn short tons (117.1mn metric tonnes) from 1 January through 18 March, up by 1.1pc, or 1.44mn st, compared with the same 11 weeks in 2022, according to EIA. EIA estimates coal production using weekly railroad volume data.
Much of the increase in production this year came from the Appalachian region, which produced 35mn st, up by 601,000st over last year. West Virginia made up over half of the region’s production with 18.5mn st mined, up by 3.9pc from the prior year. But eastern Kentucky had the largest overall increase in Appalachian coal output, rising by nearly 17pc to produce 2.82mn st.
This growth in Appalachian coal production reflects, in part, higher demand for exports to Europe.
US thermal coal exports rose to 3.1mn st in January, up from 2.8mn st in the same month a year prior, US Census Bureau data show. Nearly half of these exports were shipped to Europe, increasing by about 958,860st from January 2022.
Metallurgical coal exports jumped even more sharply, rising by 38pc to 4mn st from 2.9mn st in January 2022. That helped drive total US exports to 7.1mn st in January, up by 25pc from the same month in 2022.
Since the EU’s ban on Russian coal took effect on 10 August 2022, many US coal producers have been able to increase sales to buyers that previously had relied on Russian coal purchases.
Appalachian producer Alliance Resource Partners said in January that it has 3.3mn st of coal under contract to be exported in 2023, and could ship an additional 1.2mn st internationally through the end of the year if prices support the market. Last year, Alliance only had 2.3mn st of coal under contract to be exported through 2023.
Exports for the growing Indian cement market have also supported coal production. While US coal shipments to India declined by 21pc to 456,895st in January, Indian cement buyers resumed their interest in US high-sulfur coal, particularly in Northern Appalachia. This is because the price of petroleum coke delivered to India was more expensive than Northern Appalachian coal deliveries between late January and early March.
Northern Appalachian producer Consol Energy said earlier this month that it now expects to sell the majority of its open volumes for 2024 into the international market, primarily to India.
In contrast, US domestic demand for coal has been relatively weak since the start of 2023.
But other coal basins have also increased production this year, likely because of purchases made last year.
Year-to-date coal production from the Illinois Basin increased by 1.07mn st to 17.2mn st. Illinois increased production by 5.4pc to 8.40mn st, while Indiana increased production by 16pc to 5.24mn st. Western Kentucky output was down by 1.9pc to 3.60mn st.
The western bituminous region produced an additional 31,000st of coal since the start of the year to total 5.21mn st compared with the same time in 2022. Colorado production was up by 21pc to 2.90mn st, while Utah production was down by 17pc to 2.31mn st.
In the Powder River basin, Montana’s coal output rose by 124,000st to 6.13mn st. But production in Wyoming fell by 383,000st to 52.5mn st.
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- On April 4, 2023