US thermal coal exports rose in June from year-earlier levels for a second month as buyers in the northern hemisphere stocked up ahead of the summer cooling season.
Roughly 4.08mn short tons (3.7mn metric tonnes) of thermal coal departed the US during the month, up from 3.4mn st a year earlier, preliminary figures reported today by the US Commerce Department show. But a decline in metallurgical coal shipments brought total coal exports down to just over 8mn st from 8.1mn st in June 2022.
Steam coal exports to Europe had their first year-over-year increase since February, climbing to 849,882st from 778,370st in June 2022. US thermal coal shipments to countries in Asia as well as to Canada also rose, to 2.18mn st and 180,696st, respectively, from 1.32mn st and 111,526st a year earlier. That offset decreased volumes to Africa and other parts of the Americas.
Most of the exports to Europe appeared to be from the Appalachias. Thermal coal shipments to the continent out of the Baltimore, Maryland; Mobile, Alabama; and Norfolk, Virginia, Census districts rose to a combined 652,003st from 293,364st in June 2022.
Steam coal exports from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Europe dropped to 160,871st from 461,895st a year earlier. June was the fifth month that thermal coal shipments from New Orleans — the main exit point for high-sulfur Illinois basin coal — to Europe were lower than they had been in the same month of 2022.
Overall, steam coal exports out of New Orleans fell from year-earlier levels for a third month, to 761,785st from 1.31mn st in June 2022. For the first half of 2023, shipments out of the district fell to 5.42mn st from just over 6mn st a year earlier. Exports out of Baltimore and Norfolk jumped to 9.03mn st and 3.15mn st, respectively, from 6.02mn st and 1.65mn st in January-June 2022, while steam coal volumes out of Mobile rose to 1.49mn st from 1.14mn st.
Shipment gains out of Baltimore still reflect a return to normal operations from CSX railroad’s Curtis Bay terminal, which was partially off line from January 2022 through the third quarter of last year.
Increased demand from India also helped support volumes out of Baltimore. Essentially all of the 920,019st of US steam coal shipped to India in June came from Baltimore terminals. A year earlier, 695,087st of US thermal coal was exported from Baltimore to India and another 124,670st was from New Orleans.
Western US thermal coal exports rose from 2022 levels for a second month in June, propelled by greater demand from South Korea and Japan and some improved rail service. While production constraints at some Colorado and Utah mines pushed shipments out of the Los Angeles district down to almost zero from 57,590st a year earlier, exports out of the San Francisco and Seattle, Washington, regions, increased to 145,518st and 556,589st, respectively, in June from 135,088st and 305,641st a year earlier.
For the first half of 2023 as a whole, US steam coal exports rose to 23.7mn st from 20.2mn st in the same period of 2022, with shipments to Africa, Asia, Europe and North America higher than a year earlier. Metallurgical coal exports also topped 2022 levels for January-June, rising to 25mn st from 23.6mn st.
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- On August 10, 2023