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Value of US net coal exports since 2005

World Coal,

According to the latest analysis from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the dollar value of US net coal exports has increased more than three-fold since 2005.

Graph of US monthly coal trade.

Coal exports

Although coal trade only accounts for about 5% of trade flows in energy fuels, the volume of US coal exports has steadily increased, from 50 million short in 2005 to a record 126 million in 2012. Export volumes set a monthly record in March 2013, before declining in the second half of the year. Coal exports are an increasingly important source of revenue for US coal producers, railroads, and barge companies. Coal's transportation through the supply chain affects its delivered price.

The recent growth in coal net exports has been driven by volume increases in steam coal exports and price increases in metallurgical coal, which generally sells at a significantly higher price per short ton than steam coal.

Graph of net coal exports and average trade price.

Export destinations

According to EIA's Quarterly Coal Report, most US coal exports go to Europe (50%), followed by Asia (26%), North America (11%), and South America (10%). Export growth has been strongest in Asia and South America.

The US continues to import small quantities of coal, primarily from Colombia (73%), Canada (14%), and Indonesia (8%). US coal imports in Q3 2013 decreased to 2.4 million short t from 2.8 million in Q2 2013.


Despite the 2013 pullback in both volume and value, coal exports will continue to be important for companies involved in coal production and transportation. Key drivers of future US coal exports include global coal demand and production challenges that may arise in domestic production in China and India, the world's major coal consumers, and in production by leading global coal exporters, including Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa.

The Annual Energy Outlook 2014 Reference case projects modest growth in US coal exports, which reach 160 million short t by 2040.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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