Rail rates to US east coast export terminals rose this month as some buyers reentered global markets, while domestic rates dropped as utility demand remained limited.
The rate to ship coal from the Pittsburgh Seam and Central Appalachia to export terminals rose by 15¢/short ton to $29.75/st and $35.75/st, respectively, compared with May assessments.
Rising coal exports out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, in May reflected the trend. Volume rose from year-earlier levels for the sixth consecutive month, as overall shipments rose to an 11-month high, according to Virginia Maritime Association data.
The price of coal delivered into northern Europe has also increased. Argus on Wednesday assessed prompt two-month deliveries of 6,000 kcal/kg coal at $123.23/t cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA), up by $7.48/t from a month earlier. The average price so far this month has increased to $122.94/t, up by $4.99/t compared with $117.95/t in June.
But US utility demand remains down from last year’s levels, limiting spot rail purchases.
The rate to ship coal to Florida from Central App fell by 10¢/st to $35.20/st, and down by $5.25/st during the same month last year. The rates to the same destination from the Pittsburgh Seam and Illinois basin also dropped by 10¢/st and 5¢/st to $35.75/st and $35.85/st, respectively.
Many domestic buyers do not expect to enter the market in the near term, forecasting that power plant inventories will last through summer and possibly the end of the year. The lack of demand has left Central and Northern App prices unchanged or slightly lower over the last few weeks.
Eastern utilities say rail service has improved from summer 2022 when carriers struggled to meet demand. But many generators say service is still not at target levels.
US railroad metrics support shipper anecdotes that eastern railroad CSX has improved the most. Average coal train speed during the four weeks ended on 23 June are up by 20pc compared with the same four weeks in 2022, US Surface Transportation Board (STB) data show. And the number of loaded railcars that were not moved in more than 48 hours has plunged by 93pc to 4.3 cars/week.
In contrast, train speed at eastern carrier Norfolk Southern( NS) dropped by 4.2pc compared with the year-earlier period. The number of coal cars unmoved in more than 48 hours dropped by 15pc to 742 cars/week from 874 cars/week during the same four weeks last year, STB data show.
CSX and NS increased coal shipments during the second quarter, STB data show. CSX volume this year through 24 June increased by an average of 6.9pc, while NS coal freight rose by 2.2pc.
View article here.
- On July 20, 2023