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US coal production hits record low

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World Coal,

According to new figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), US coal production totaled an estimated 996 million short t in 2013 – the first time in 20 years that the country’s coal production has fallen under 1 billion short t.

Appalachia takes the hit while the PRB stays steady…
Since 2011, US coal production has dropped by nearly 100 million short t with the decline focused in the Appalachian and Western coal regions. By contrast, the Interior region, which contains the Power River Basin (PRB) has increased by 14 million short t over the same time period, reflecting the lower costs of production in the PRB.

The EIA projects coal production will rise this year by 3.9% to 1.035 billion short t, as inventories stabilise and consumption increases. Production will then fall back by 1.5% in 2015.

… and coal consumption starts to rise
Meanwhile, coal consumption is projected to finish 3.5% up in 2013 to 920 million short t as the electric power sector used more on the back of higher natural gas prices.

Consumption will grow again this year to 958 million t but fall back again in 2015 as plant retirements rise on the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Coal exports trending down
US coal exports are expected to finish 8 million t lower in 2013 than the record level seen in 2012. Exports will continue to drop through to 2015, said the EIA, as economic weakness in Europe, slowing Asian demand, increasing coal output from other exporting countries and falling international coal prices forces down global demand for US coal.

Set against this, the EIA notes that disruption to Colombian coal exports could provide a temporary boost to US exports. Colombian thermal coal exports are expected to drop by a third following the implementation of a new law in January that requires coal to be loaded by enclosed conveyor rather than cranes or barges. Upgraded loading facilities are not expected to be complete until March.

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