The U.S.' coal production decreased in 2018 despite coal export increases from the country last year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a statement on Friday.
The EIA said it estimates that total coal production in the U.S. last year was 755 million short tons (MMst), a decline of 20 MMst compared to 2017.
Out of the five major coal-producing basins in the U.S., two saw increased production last year while three saw output declines.
In the Central Appalachian Basin, located in the U.S. states of Ohio and Kentucky, and the Illinois Basin that include the states of Illinois and Indiana, coal production increased by 3 MMst, or 4 percent, and 2 MMst, or 2 percent, respectively.
The Rocky Mountain region, located in the states of Utah and Colorado, experienced the largest year-on-year decline in coal production in 2018 with 6 MMst, or 12 percent, according to the EIA.
While the Powder River Basin located in Montana and Wyoming saw a coal output decline by 3 percent last year, coal production in the Northern Appalachian Basin in West Virginia decreased by 2 percent.
"Although U.S. coal exports increased by about 10 MMst in 2018, volumes were not great enough to offset the decline in U.S. coal consumption, resulting in declining coal production," the statement said.
- Consumption at lowest level in 39 years
The EIA said it estimated that total coal consumption in the U.S. was 692 MMst in 2018 -- its lowest level in 39 years.
More than 90 percent of domestic coal consumption was in the power sector, and nearly 15 gigawatts of coal-fired generation capacity was retired in 2018, contributing to the decline in coal consumption, according to the EIA.
"Although natural gas prices continued to rise in 2018, EIA estimates that the coal share of total power generation declined, reaching a new low of 28 percent, lower than the natural gas share, at 35 percent, for the third consecutive year," the statement said.
"Increasing coal prices and demand for coal exports, along with continued competition with natural gas, also contributed to a decline in overall coal consumption," it added.
- Coal exports on the rise
On the other hand, U.S. coal exports increased for the second consecutive year in 2018, reaching 116 MMst, or 15 percent of total U.S. coal production, according to the EIA.
Most of the foreign demand for U.S. coal came from Asian and European countries. The largest importers of U.S. coal in Asia were India, Japan, and South Korea, according to the EIA.
"In Europe, the Netherlands was the largest destination with Turkey, Morocco, Croatia, and the U.K. showing growth during 2017," the statement said.
By Ovunc Kutlu