US thermal coal exports rose for a second month in February on extended gains to Europe and higher demand from India.
Exporters shipped 3.87mn short tons (3.51mn metric tonnes) of US steam coal during the month, up by 22pc from a year earlier, according to US Commerce Department data released today. Metallurgical coal shipments also climbed, rising by 3.2pc in February from a year earlier, to bring total US coal exports up to just under 8mn st in February from 7.16mn st in February 2022. Shipments in January also rose from a year earlier.
Steam coal shipments to India increased in February from year-earlier levels for the first time in 17 month — to 1.43mn st from 511,080st — partly reflecting coal’s competitive advantage to petroleum coke in early 2023. Cement makers in India regained interest in US high-sulfur coal in January and February following declines in coal prices and relatively elevated petroleum coke prices.
February’s US thermal coal shipments to India also were the highest since May 2021.
The increase in exports to India was enough to offset the declines in steam coal shipments to Japan and South Korea and bring total US thermal coal exports to Asia up to 2.06mn st from 1.61mn st in February 2022.
Continued gains in shipments to Europe also bolstered US steam coal exports. US volumes to the continent climbed to 982,511st in February from 575,013st a year earlier. Exports to Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain were higher than they had been a year earlier.
The year-on-year gains in exports to Europe may be nearing an end. Buyer interest in coal has tapered off after an uptick around March-September 2022, when generators in Europe were looking to diversify supply and stock up on coal ahead of the EU’s August embargo on Russian coal imports. Coal-fired generation on the continent also lagged expectations at times during the winter, leaving power plant operators with relatively elevated coal inventories.
The composition of thermal coal exports to Europe also changed in February, with more shipments coming from the Norfolk, Virginia, Census region — which primarily handles lower-sulfur Central Appalachian coal — than from New Orleans, Louisiana. Higher-sulfur Illinois basin coal typically moves through New Orleans for export.
US steam coal exports through Norfolk to Europe jumped to 431,664st in February from 55,799st in the same month of 2022, while shipments out of New Orleans fell to 323,672st from 357,339st. Exports to the continent from the Baltimore, Maryland, Census district — a hub for seaborne Northern Appalachian coal shipments — dipped by roughly 5,000st to 79,366st.
Demand from India may also taper off in coming months following recent drops in petroleum coke prices.
Elsewhere, US thermal coal exports to Morocco and Canada rose in February, but were offset by lower shipments to Egypt and Mexico.
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- On April 11, 2023