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US coal exports ticking higher, pushed by high petcoke prices, China

US coal exports in April were 24.3% higher year on year at 6.2 million mt, which was down 10.2% from March, according to US Census data released June 9.

The upward trend was also noticeable in the year-to-date comparison, which is up 8.1% compared with the same four-month period in 2020.

On an annualized basis, US coal exports in 2021 would total 74.9 million mt, up 20% from last year.

Exports of bituminous coal, from the Illinois Basin, Northern Appalachia and Central Appalachia, totaled 2.5 million mt in April, down 27.3% from March but up 70.4% from the year-ago month. On a year-to-date basis, bituminous coal exports are up 35.7%.

The top destinations for bituminous coal in April were India, at 1 million mt compared with 436,458 mt in the year-ago month; the Netherlands, at 258,021 mt compared with 163,507 mt last year; and Egypt, at 232,369 mt compared with zero in the year-ago month.

On a year-to-date basis, the top destinations for bituminous coal are India, at 4.8 million mt compared with 3.6 million mt during the same period last year; the Netherlands, at 1.1 million mt compared with 558,575 mt last year; and Egypt, at 677,128 mt compared with 164,401 mt a year ago.

High petcoke prices are helping to push more US thermal coal tons to India and Egypt, while Europe has increased its coal imports due to low gas storage.

For metallurgical coal, the US exported 3.4 million mt in April, up 9.5% from March and up 7.8% from the year-ago month, although on a year-to-date basis metallurgical coal exports through April are down 7%.

The top destinations for US metallurgical coal in April were Brazil, at 500,696 mt compared with 366,157 mt in the year-ago month; China, at 448,818 mt compared with zero last year; and the Netherlands, at 330,954 mt compared with 166,688 mt a year ago.

On a year-to-date basis, the top destinations for metallurgical coal are China, at 2.6 million mt, up from 407,000 mt in the same period last year; Brazil, at 2 million mt compared with 2.3 million mt last year; and the Netherlands, at 1.2 million mt compared with 1.1 million mt a year ago.

China has increased its appetite for US metallurgical coal due to its ban on Australian imports due to a political spat between the two nations over the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

China does not typically import US thermal coal, though its ban on Australian imports has led to an uptick this year. Through April, China has imported 377,938 mt of US bituminous coal, although there were no US bituminous coal exports to China in April.
Source: Platts

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