US thermal coal exports rose to a five-year high in October, as shipping conditions from some export terminals improved and buyers in some of the northern hemisphere continued restocking ahead of winter.
More than 5.17mn short tons (4.69mn metric tonnes) of US steam coal left export facilities in October, US Commerce Department data released today show. Shipments were 80pc higher than in October 2022 and the most since September 2018.
The rise in international steam coal shipments coincided with a recovery in operations at Dominion Terminal Associates, near Hampton Roads, Virginia, following mechanical and weather-related issues in the third quarter and improved rail service from some Powder River basin mines to Westshore Terminals near Vancouver, Canada. But exports out of most other US Census districts also increased, including New Orleans, where barge traffic was still restricted by low water levels.
Spot thermal coal export prices recovered from three-month lows in the back half of September and through October, as buyers in the Middle East, north Africa and northeast Asia started to purchase coal to add to winter supplies. By the middle of October, Argus‘ assessment for prompt two-month 6,000 kcal/kg typical 3pc sulfur shipments out of New Orleans and the mid-point of the high-low range for 6,000 kcal/kg less than 1pc sulfur shipments out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, were at their highest levels since April and May, respectively. Those prices have since declined.
In October, US thermal coal exports to countries in Asia, Africa and Central and South America were higher than they had been a year earlier.
US steam coal shipments to Asia more than tripled in October when compared with the same month of 2022, to 3.45mn st from 951,342st. Exports to Japan and South Korea climbed by 63pc and 113pc, respectively, to 444,127st and 252,218st, partly because of greater sub-bituminous shipments.
About 190,394st of US sub-bituminous coal was also headed to Singapore in October, according to Commerce Department data. The last time Singapore was listed as a destination for more than a trace amount of US thermal coal was in June 2021.
US steam coal exports to India also jumped in October, to 2.4mn st from 560,114st a year earlier. Shipments to India were the highest since at least 2009 and followed a brief period in late August and early September when coal was a more competitive fuel than petroleum coke for cement makers.
Termal coal exports to Morocco and Egypt jumped to 408,096st and 345,651st from 73,379st and 235,962st in October 2022. And shipments to Central and South American countries almost doubled to a combined 109,603st from 56,921st.
The increases offset declines in steam coal shipments to most of Europe as well as to Canada and Mexico.
The US shipped 750,658st of thermal coal to Europe in October, down from 1.36mn st a year earlier. Over the same time frame, US steam coal shipments to Canada and Mexico dropped almost in half, to a combined 111,507st from 200,930st.
US coking coal exports also rose in October, to 4.28mn st from 3.9mn st. When combined with steam coal shipments, total US seaborne volumes jumped to a seven-month high of 9.45mn st from 6.78mn st.
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- On December 12, 2023