Atlantic market hit by a fall in US, Colombian coal production

12 February 2014 15:27 Source:ICIS

Colombian coal production in 2013 fell 4% year on year to 85.5m tonnes, according to data by the national mining agency ANM.

The 85.5m tonnes produced represented 85% of the output target set for the year. ANM said that 94% of coal produced was exported, while the remaining tonnes were used domestically for electricity production and in cement and metallurgical industries.

The agency attributed the 3.7m tonne fall in production on strikes at the two largest thermal coal miners Cerrejon and Drummond, as well as low international coal prices. It pointed out that coal production in the last quarter of 2013 rose 18% compared to Q4 ’12.

“Although the production in 2013 was below 2012, it is worth noting that the year ended with a recovery in mining,” Colombia’s energy and mining minister Amylkar Acosta said on Twitter on Monday.

Atlantic basin supply

However, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Colombian exports in the first quarter of 2014 are expected to drop by around a third, after the ship-loading law, which came into effect on 1 January, banned producer Drummond from exporting coal until the infrastructure – required by the new law – is in place.

Because of a consequent drop in supply of Colombian coal to Europe, a 50,000 tonne Colombian-origin DES ARA cargo for delivery in March ’14 was bid at $81.75/tonne on Tuesday – sharply above the last DES ARA March ’14 physical trade at $80.25/tonne, reported on 5 February. A Russian-origin DES ARA March ‘14 cargo was offered at $81.00/tonne on Tuesday but saw no interest.

The disruption in coal supply from Colombia to the Atlantic basin could also boost US coal exports in Q1 ’14 although the EIA has previously said US coal exports are expected to total 95.3m tonnes in 2014 – down 11% year on year from the 107.0m tonnes exported in 2013.

“Continuing economic weakness in Europe (the largest regional importer of US coal), slowing Asian demand growth, increasing coal output in other coal-exporting countries, and falling international coal prices are the primary reasons for the expected decline in US coal exports. However, a supply disruption in Colombia could provide a temporary boost to US exports,” the EIA said in its short-term energy outlook published late on Tuesday.

In 2013, US coal production fell to its lowest level in 20 years, although the country’s coal consumption rose year on year, EIA data shows.

US coal production fell 2% year on year to 903.6m tonnes in 2013. EIA said this was the first time in 20 year that annual coal production out-turned below 907.2m tonnes (1bn short tons). Manca Vitorino

By Manca Vitorino