U.S. coal exports reached 116 million short tons* (MMst) in 2018, the highest level in five years, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday, citing foreign trade data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to the EIA, while U.S. coal consumption has generally declined since its 2008 peak, coal exports have increased as of 2016 as international prices have made it more economic for U.S. producers to sell coal overseas.
Last year, the U.S. exported 15 percent of its coal, and the remaining 85 percent was sold to end-use markets, primarily the power sector and industrial customers.
Of the 116 million short tons of coal exported last year, 54 MMst was steam coal, for which India, Japan, and South Korea were the primary Asian destinations, and the remaining export of 62 MMst was metallurgical coal, the EIA said.
According to the agency's statement, U.S. steam coal exports to Asia have increased over the period 2016 to 2018, from 5 MMst in 2016 to 20 MMst in 2018, or nearly 40 percent of the country's total steam coal exports.
"U.S. steam coal exports have also increased to some new markets such as Egypt, Thailand, and Ukraine in recent years, providing some potential for market growth," the EIA added.
According to the agency, strong international demand has led to export price rises in recent years with coal export prices having increased in each of the past two years to average $59 per ton for steam coal and $138 per ton for metallurgical coal in 2018.
*1 short ton equals 0.90 metric tons.
By Hale Turkes