December 15, 2017 Read More →

Exports Markets Aren’t Likely to Ease Long-Term Pressures on U.S. Coal Producers

S&P Global Market Intelligence:

With the domestic coal market saturated and analysts forecasting a continued secular decline for thermal coal, producers have been pinning their hopes on overseas buyers.

The strong export market the industry has enjoyed this year should continue at least through the first half of 2018, one analyst said, but its long-term viability is less certain.

Coal advocates in the industry and the current administration have cited the export market as a vital and necessary area for coal industry growth, including a recent initiative announced by the White House intended to bolster coal use and demand for U.S. coal abroad.

Exports have surged this year, with year-to-date shipments from the Hampton Roads port facilities in Virginia up 65.8% through November. September’s total U.S. exports were the highest since March 2014.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting a slowdown in 2018. In its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, released Dec. 12, it predicted a 17% decline in exports, from 89 million tons in 2017 to 74 million tons.

Ever-shifting geopolitics plays a role in those forecasts, along with a global movement away from coal-fired generation and pressure from natural gas and renewables.

More ($): Relief from global market far from certain for US coal

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