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US coal exports surge on Asian thermal demand

5 Oct 2017, 6.15 pm GMT

US coal exports surge on Asian thermal demand

Washington, 5 October (Argus) — US coal exports reached a more than three-year high in August as thermal shipments to Asia surged.

Total coal volumes rose by 71.4pc from a year earlier to 8.57mn short tons (7.77mn metric tonnes), the most since June 2014, US Census Bureau data released today show.

August steam coal exports almost doubled to 3.38mn st from 1.18mn st a year earlier. That was the second-highest level this year, lagging only March's 3.93mn st. Thermal coal exports in July totaled 2.96mn st.

The majority of US thermal coal went to Asia for a fifth straight month as buyers in the region continued to be drawn to US coal's lower cost relative to other fuels. That trend likely will continue in coming months.

Indian buyers in particular recently have been snapping up high-sulfur US steam coal as prices compare favorably to petroleum coke and power generators look to restock after the monsoon season. US thermal coal exports to India jumped to 646,602st in August from essentially nothing a year earlier.

Total thermal coal exports to Asia rose to 1.36mn st from 70,862st a year earlier. Shipments to South Korea rose to 572,462st in August from nothing a year earlier and volumes to Japan nearly doubled to 137,383st from just under 70,000st in August 2016.

US steam coal exports to Europe totaled 1.04mn st, a 46pc increase on the year prior. Gains in shipments to the Netherlands, Portugal and other countries more than offset weaker volumes to Germany.

Exports to the Netherlands — including the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp terminals that serve as the portal to northwest Europe — which more than doubled to 688,568st. Meanwhile shipments to Portugal jumped to 146,084st in August from nothing a year earlier, making it the second-biggest European destination for US thermal coal.

African countries also took more US steam coal in August. Steam coal shipments to the continent rose to 412,452st from almost nothing during the same month in 2016. That was the highest monthly total since April 2013.

Egypt was the top African destination, with the US shipping 279,202st in August, compared with almost nothing a year earlier.

US metallurgical coal shipments also climbed in August, to 5.19mn st — the highest level since March 2015 — from 3.82mn st a year earlier and 4.22mn st in July.

Coking coal exports to Europe jumped to 2.11mn st from 1.60mn st a year earlier. Ukraine was the biggest destination, with volumes rising by 122pc on the year prior, to 572,621st.

Metallurgical coal exports to the Netherlands rose by 41.1pc to 302,762mn st. Shipments to Germany increased to 246,195st in August from nothing a year earlier.

Asia was the second biggest export destination for US metallurgical coal. Volumes to the continent rose to 1.98mn st from 1.05mn st in August 2016 as shipments to India nearly tripled, to 668,866st, and exports to China soared to 566,416st from 79,530st a year earlier. US coking coal exports to South Korea rose a relatively modest 4pc, to 434,949st in August.

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