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US Q2 ‘12 coal exports reach new high as production drops

03 Dec 2012 15:19:04 | csd

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US quarterly coal exports reached a record in the second quarter of 2012, data by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), dating back to January 2005, revealed on Monday.

The US exported 34m tonnes in Q2 2012, up 31% compared with the previous quarter and 39% higher year on year.

The administration said last month 75% of the country's total exports in the first eight months of the year was shipped to Europe and Asia (see CSD 16 November 2012).

The EIA still expects total coal exports to reach a record 113.4m tonnes in 2012 but fall slightly in 2013 because of continued economic weakness in Europe, lower international coal prices and rising production in Asia.

Despite the increasing rate of exports, US domestic coal production declined for the third quarter running, falling to 219m tonnes in Q2 '12 - down 9% compared to both Q1 '12 and Q2' 11.

However, EIA's monthly production data for 2012 - also published on Monday - show that production levels have since improved, with 235m tonnes of coal produced between July and September. Although November data is not yet available, US miners produced some 78.7m tonnes of coal in October, up 6% compared to September.

In November, EIA projected that total US coal production in 2013 will be close to its 2012 levels with coal stockpile draw downs and lower exports expected to offset a projected increase in domestic coal consumption.

"The November 2012 Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts a 7% decline in coal production in 2012 from 2011 as domestic consumption, primarily in the electric power sector, falls," the EIA said.

Although weak coal prices in the Atlantic basin and the rest of the world have already prompted some mine closures in the world's biggest coal producing regions - something which could continue if prices do not recover - the EIA said some US coal companies have now announced restarts of mines.

"Patriot Coal recently announced it was closing mining facilities that produce thermal coal in Kentucky, but Consol Energy announced the restart of its idled Buchanan metallurgical coal mine in Virginia," EIA said. MV

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