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Colombian thermal coal exports rose in 2014

World Coal,

Increased demand for Colombian coal from Turkey saw exports from the South American country increase in 2014. However, demand from the Netherlands plummeted, while a suspension of operations at Drummond’s Caribbean coal port saw official coal export targets missed.

Colombia’s thermal coal exports totalled 75.1 million t last year, up from 73.7 million t in 2013, according to shipping agency Deep Blue. In December, thermal coal shipments increased by 3.1% year-on-year to 7.3 million t, as buyers stocked up for the winter.

The country's total coal exports, including thermal and metallurgical coal, as well as metallurgical coke, totalled 77.6 million t last year, 1.5% higher than the 76.4 million t exported in 2013. But exports fell short of the 85 million t the government initially expected.

One international coal analyst, who forecast Colombian thermal coal exports at 75.8 million t, said the suspension of loadings at Puerto Drummond was a major factor in slowing volumes.

Exports were also hampered by global oversupply, which posed a new challenge to the three largest Colombian thermal coal mine companies, Cerrejon, Drummond and Glencore.

Argus Media assessed fob Puerto Bolivar thermal coal prices at US$64/t on 30 December, down from US$66.75/t at the end of 2013, which compared with US$82.25/t at the end of 2012. Declines have accelerated in 2015, with Puerto Bolivar coal falling to US$58/t last week.

Drummond, Colombia's second largest coal company, increased coal exports by 8.6% year-on-year to 21.7 million t, despite the port suspension, but fell short of its revised export forecast of 25 million t.

Alabama-based Drummond could not export coal from 13 January until 31 March 31 after the government ordered it to halt loading because it failed to install direct loaders by a 1 January deadline. The company kept producing coal for about two and a half months during the outage and its inventories swelled to around million t, of which 2 million t remains at the port and the mines.

Cerrejon, the country's largest coal exporter, increased coal exports by 2.1% year-on-year in 2014, despite cutting production at several pits to ease coal dust concerns.

Cerrejon, which is owned by BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American, exported 34.2 million t of coal last year from its mines in northern Guajira province, up from 33.5 million t in 2012 and 32.8 million t in 2012, the company said. But the company's exports were below the 35 million t the coal analyst had forecast for the company.

Cerrejon's output could have been higher but a lack of rainfall — which led to increased particulate matter from mining operations — forced it to idle several pits, according to Argus.

Colombian coal shipments to Turkey jumped by 20.2% year-on-year to 7.7 million t, as the country brought on line 1.5 GW of coal-fired capacity, which burn exclusively imported coal. Turkey also restocked in the last months of last year. Turkey took 876 073 t in December, compared with 689 986 t in the same month the previous year. Turkey was Colombia's second top coal trading partner after the Netherlands, whose coal imports plummeted by 23% to 19.4 million t last year.

Shipments to the UK increased by 13.5% to 7 million t last year, as utilities stockpiled coal for the winter — and ahead of a planned increase in the UK carbon tax.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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