T.L. Headley, West Virginia Coal Association
The good news is that coal production in the US increased this week. The bad news is that at current prices it remains difficult to produce coal economically.
Production in the US was up by 438 000 short t (2.5%) to finish the week at 17.80 million compared to last week’s total of 17.37 million short t. Meanwhile, production for the week is off by 1.76 short t (4.6%) from the 19.59 million short t produced the same week in 2014.Cumulative production for the year-to-date remains sharply down as of 19 September, coming in at 656.61 million short t compared to 715.69 million short t last year – a decline of 59.08 million short t or 8.3% (a slight narrowing of the gap). Production for the previous 52 weeks also continues lower from last year, finishing at 937.03 million short t compared to 981.43 million short t for the same period ending in 2014 (-4.5%) – a slight widening of the gap over the longer period.
Meanwhile, the number of coal railcar loadings remains sharply down from last year, finishing the week at 103 244 cars loaded, off 9.3% from same week in 2014. Coal loadings also continued their decline year-to-date – off 9.1% from the same period in 2014.
?Coal exports were not updated this week.
?Electric output was up 3.5% compared to the same week in 2014, with 71.33 MWh of electricity produced compared to 74.68 MWh produced for the same period last year.
Domestic steel output, however, was down from the previous week.
According to numbers from the American Iron and Steel Institute, domestic raw steel production was up 0.7% from the previous week, coming in at 1.71 million short t compared to 1.69 million short t last week, with a capacity utilisation factor of 71.4%. However, steel production remains down sharply from the same week last year, when 1.88 million short t were produced at a capacity utilisation rate of 78.1%. Steel production continues its slide year-to-date – down 8% to 64.36 million short t produced compared to 69.99 million short t for the same period last year.
In terms of regional coal production, all three major basins reported modest gains for the week ending 19 September compared to the previous week, but all continue to be sharply lower compared to the same week in 2014.
The Appalachian Basin finished at 4.57 million short t – up from 4.44 million short t last week (2.9%). Interior Basin production also finished slightly up at 3.46 million short t compared to 3.35 million short t last week (2.3%). Western production finished the week higher at 9.78 million short t from 9.57 million short t last week (2.1%). However, production remains sharply below the same week in 2014. The Appalachian Basin is off by 11% from the same week last year. The Interior Basin is off 8.5% from 2014. And Western production is off 7.9% from the same period in 2014.
?All three basins also continue to report significant declines in production year-to-date, with Appalachia down 11.9%, the Interior Basin off 7.4% and the Western Basin down 6.9%.
?Looking at the previous 52 weeks, all three basins continue lower for the period ending 19 September, with the Appalachian Basin down 8.7%, the Interior Basin down 2.9% and the Western Region down 3%. Production in the Interior Basin fell to 178.17 million short t from 183.5 million short t for the same period in 2014. Appalachian production fell for the period to 244.12 million short t from 267.29 million short t. Meanwhile, Western production is down to 514.74 million short t from 530.64 million short t in 2014.?
According to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training (WVOMHST), coal production in the state now stands at 66.87 million short t through 17 September. Of that total, 53.6 million short t was mined by underground operations and 13.27 million short t was produced by opencast mining. A total of 113 mines are now reporting production through July 2015.
According to WVOMHST, coal mining employment in West Virginia fell slightly to 15 036 total miners, with 12 202 working underground and 2834 working on surface operations. The office does not report data for contract miners or preparation plant workers on a weekly basis.
According to the EIA, West Virginia coal production for the week totalled 1.92 million short t compared to 1.89 million short t for the previous week (1.5%). Meanwhile, West Virginia production is off by 11.1% from the same week in 2014.
?Production was up in both the northern and southern coalfields of West Virginia compared to last week, by 1.3% and 2.6% respectively. However, production is off in both areas year-to-date, by 0.6% and 17.2% respectively.
Coal production in Kentucky for the week ending 19 September was sharply up compared to the previous week but remains down from the same period in 2014. Kentucky production for the week was reported at 1.3 million short t, up from 1.24 million short t last week but down from the 1.52 million short t for the same week in 2014. The eastern and western regions of Kentucky also increased w/w, but remain sharply lower from the same time in 2014. Eastern Kentucky reported 637 000 short t produced for the week, up from 598 000 short t the previous week and off from 746 000 short t for the same week last year. Western Kentucky reported 666 000 short t of production, up from 645 000 short t the previous week and off from 775 000 short t in 2014. Year to date, production in Kentucky is off by 15.5%. Meanwhile production in the state is off by 12.4% for the previous 52 weeks, with western Kentucky reporting a 10.6% decline and eastern Kentucky operations reporting a decline of 14.2% y/y.
Wyoming coal production was up for the week, coming in at 7.12 million short t, compared to 6.98 million short t the previous week, but down from the 7.7 million short t produced for the same week in 2014 – a decline of 7.8%. For the previous 52 weeks, Wyoming production is down 2.2%. Illinois production also finished slightly up at 1.18 million short t compared to 1.16 million short t last week. Illinois production is up by 10.9% for the previous 52 weeks.Indiana production came in at 669 000 compared to 659 000 short t last week and 751 000 short t for the same week in 2014. Indiana production is down by 6.5% over the previous 52 weeks. Pennsylvania production for the week was also slightly up, coming in at 1.09 million short t versus 1.07 million short t for the previous week and 1.18 million short t for the same week in 2014. Production in the Keystone State continued its slide, down 8.9% year-to-date and 3.8% for the previous 52 weeks.
Ohio production also ticked slightly higher at 362 000 short t compared to 345 000 short t the previous week and 416 000 for the same week a year ago. Ohio coal production is off 16% year-to-date and down 13.8% for the previous 52 weeks, compared to the same period ending in 2014. Virginia production increased slightly this week to 240 000 short t compared to 234 000 short t for last week and 285 000 for the same week in 2014. Virginia production year-to-date is off by 16% and down for the previous 52 weeks by 15.1%.
Coal prices on the spot market were mixed this week. Central Appalachian coal rose 5 cents a short t to US$48.65/short t or US$1.95/million Btu. Northern Appalachian coal also added 5 cents, coming in at US$51.95/short t or US$2/million Btu. Illinois Basin coal closed unchanged at US$34.35/short t or US$1.46/million Btu, while Powder River Basin coal held at US$11.55/short t or US$0.66/million Btu and Uinta Basin coal prices were firm at US$39.70/short t or US$1.70/million Btu.
Meanwhile, on the NYMEX Coal Futures board, Central Appalachian coal held at US$42.50/short t, while Western Rail fell to US$10.86/short t from US$10.95 a week ago and Eastern Rail coal is down to US$43.53/short t from US$43.78 the previous week.
?Natural gas prices on the Henry Hub fell 1 cent to finish the week at US$2.69/million Btu. Natural gas producers once again reported a significant increase in their stored reserves – up 73 billion ft3 compared to the previous week, for a total of 3.33 trillion ft3 in storage. This week’s working natural gas rotary rig count shows gas producers continuing to take rigs out of service. The number of working rigs is down by four from last week to 838 working rigs. And the count remains down by 1093 rigs from a year ago – a decline of 57%. This number includes rigs working in both oil and gas plays.Written By T.L. Headley. Edited by Harleigh Hobbs. This article first appeared in the WV Coal Seam blog of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/28092015/us-coal-production-increases-for-week-ending-19-september-but-remains-below-2014-2918/