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US coal production for week ending 21 March

Published by
World Coal,

T.L. Headley, West Virginia Coal Association.

Coal production in the US continued to decline this past week according to the latest report from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the National Mining Association.

Production is down by slightly less than 1.6 million short t (7.9%) for the week ending 21 March compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 18.18 million short t compared to 19.75 million short t for the same week in 2014. Cumulative production for the year-to-date is also down as of 21 March coming in at 210.86 million short t compared to 216.88 million short t last year.

Railcar loadings also continued to decline, down 6.5% for the week from the same period last year. Rail car loadings are also down 1.9% year-to-date.

Coal export data was not updated this week

Electric output was down for the week – by 3.3% for the week ending 21 March – and is down slightly (-0.4%) year-to-date. Steel output declined again for the week, down 12.3% for the week to just 1.64 million short t produced. It continues its slide year-to-date – down to 19.91 million short t produced compared to 20.98 million short t last year. A decline in steel production is considered a leading indicator of the broader economy and the continued declines we are seeing in steel production usually translate into declines in durable goods orders

Looking at regional coal production, Appalachian Basin production was down slightly for the week at 4.98 million short t from 5.06 million short t the previous week. Interior Basin production was also down for the week, coming in at 3.41 million short t from 3.47 million short t last week. Western production also declined this week to 9.80 million short t from 9.98 million short t last week.

The Interior and Western Basins continued to show increased production for the previous 52 weeks ending 21 March. Production in the Appalachian Basin turned down slightly for the 52-week period to 267.63 million short t from 268.07 million short t in 2014. Interior Basin production increased by 1.7%, to 185.49 million short t from 182.88 million short t for the same period ending in 2014. Meanwhile, Western production was up 1.0%, to 534.95 million short t from 529.79 million short t in 2014.

According to the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, coal production in the state for 2015 (reported through 19 March) stands at 15.16 million short t year-to-date, with 11.73 million short t produced underground and 3.42 million short t produced through opencast operations. A total of 121 mines in the state are now reporting production in January.

Production for other key coal-producing states is being reported once again by the EIA.

Coal production in Kentucky for the week ending 21 March ticked down to 1.42 million short t compared to 1.44 million short t for the same week in 2014, with the state seeing declines in both its eastern and western fields. Meanwhile, coal production in Kentucky is off by 2.2% for the previous 52 weeks.

Wyoming coal production also ticked down for the week to 7.1 million short t, off from 7.2 million short t for the same week in 2014. For the year, Wyoming production is up slightly (0.1%). Illinois production is also down slightly for the week, coming in at 1.05 million short t compared to 1.06 for the same period in 2014. Indiana production, likewise, is down slightly, coming in at 723 000 short t compared to 736 000 short t for the week in 2014.

Pennsylvania production for the week is also down slightly, to 1.22 million short t versus 1.25 million short t for the same week in 2014, but is up 11.5% for the previous 52 weeks. Ohio production is off slightly to 389 000 short t compared to 396 000 short t in 2014. Virginia production turned down this week to 288,000 short t compared to 293 000 short t last week, but is off substantially compared to the same week in 2014, which saw production of 332 000 short t. Virginia production for the previous 52 weeks is off by 7%.

Coal prices on the spot market held firm again this week. Central Appalachian coal remains at US$53.06/short t. Northern Appalachian coal remains at US$61.15/short t. Illinois Basin coal prices held at US$40.32/short t, while Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal prices also held steady at US$11.55/short t and US$38.13/short t respectively.

Due to an error, natural gas prices on the Henry Hub were incorrectly reported last week to be approximately US$3.20/million Btu. The correct price was US$2.68/million Btu. This week, natural gas prices rose slightly to US$2.72/million Btu.

Natural gas producers continued to report significant declines in their stored reserves – off 45 billion ft3 compared to the previous week. Most of the decline came in the eastern fields. This week's Baker Hughes working rotary rig count came in at 1048, with 462 of these operating in Texas. This number includes working in both oil and gas play.s

Utilities did not issue updates to their stockpile reports once again this week.

Written by T.L. Headley. Edited from  . This article first appeared in the WV Coal Seam blog of the West Virginia Coal Association.

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