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Coal consumption set to rise

Published by
World Coal,

The EIA estimates that coal production declined by 169 million short t (19%) in 2016 to 728 million short t, the lowest level of coal production since 1978.

In 2017, growth in coal-fired electricity generation and exports is expected to lead to an increase of 57 million short t (8%) in total US coal production. Production in the Western region is forecast to increase by 26 million short t. Increases in production from the Appalachian region and the Interior region are expected to be 16 million short t and 15 million short, respectively. In 2018, total coal production is expected to remain relatively unchanged, with declines in Appalachian region production offset by increases in Interior region and Western region production.

Electric power sector coal stockpiles were 166 million t in April 2017 (the last actual data point), up 1% from the previous month. This increase in total coal stockpiles is normal during the spring when the power sector builds coal stockpiles for use during the summer months when demand for electricity is greater.

Coal consumption

Electric power sector coal consumption is forecast to increase by 9 million short t (1%) in 2017, mostly because of rising natural gas prices. In 2018, demand for coal in the power sector is expected to increase by 2 million short t.

Coal trade

Coal exports for the first quarter of 2017 were 58% higher than in the same quarter last year, with steam coal exports increasing by 6 million short t. The trend continued in April, with exports 58% higher than in April 2016. EIA expects growth in coal exports to slow in the coming months, with exports for all of 2017 forecast at 72 million short t, 12 million short t (19%) above the 2016 level. Exports are expected to be 63 million short t in 2018.

Atlantic and Gulf Coast electric power generators are forecast to generally maintain their current levels of coal imports, which are primarily from Latin America. Total US imports are estimated to have been 10 million short t in 2016 and are forecast to remain between 9 million short t and 10 million short t in 2017 and 2018.

Coal prices

EIA estimates the delivered coal price averaged US$2.11 per million British thermal units (million Btu) in 2016, which is 5% lower than the 2015 price. Coal prices are forecast to increase in 2017 and in 2018 to US$2.15/ million Btu and US$2.21/ million Btu, respectively.

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