Exports of US coal are down 21% in the first seven months of this year, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Exports totalled 45.5 million tonnes in January-July 2015 versus 53.9 million tonnes in the same period last year. “Slower growth in world coal demand, lower international coal prices and higher coal output in other coal-exporting countries have all led to a decline in US coal exports,” said the EIA in a recent report.
“Lower mining costs, cheaper transportation costs, and favourable exchange rates will continue to provide an advantage to mines in other major coal-exporting countries compared with US producers,” the EIA continued.
The government agency now predicts full-year US coal exports of 72.1 million tonnes, down 18% from 2014. It believes US steam coal exports (coal used for power generation) will total 28.1 million tonnes, down 16.6%, and that metallurgical or met coal exports (used for steel production) will total 44 million tonnes, down 19%.
The EIA believes next year will be even worse. It projects that US coal exports will drop 9.1% versus 2015, to 65.6 tonnes. US steam coal exports are projected to drop 9.6% and met coal exports to fall 8.7%.
Monthly statistics from IHS Energy on US coal buyers reveal the geographic distribution of the volume slide.
In the steam coal category, US exports to the largest buying market, Europe, fell by 1.36 million tonnes (-15%) in January-July 2015 versus the same period last year. US steam coal volumes to Asia, the Middle East and Africa fell by 1.83 million tonnes (-29%) and volumes to South/Central America and the Caribbean fell 661,536 tonnes (-51%).
In met coal category, Europe was responsible for the majority of the decline. US cargoes to Europe fell 4.65 million tonnes or 27%. US met coal exports to Asia, the Middle East and Africa fell by 1.5 million tonnes (-15%) and cargoes to South/Central America and the Caribbean fell by one million tonnes (-22%).