By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MA, MAT, BA
For the West Virginia Coal Association
CHARLESTON — According to the latest information from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, coal production in the United States rose by 640,000 tons for the week ending November 29, compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 18.96 million tons compared to 18.32 million tons in 2013.
Coal production for the 52 weeks ending November 29 was also up slightly, by 0.1 percent, from 983.6 million tons in 2013 to 984.1 million tons this year. The increased production was reflected in the number of rail cars loaded, which jumped from 109,309 cars loaded in 2013 to 115,205 cars in 2014.
Exports of metallurgical coal saw a decrease of 2.3% for the month of September 2014 as compared to the same month in 2013. Steam coal exports were down 37.3% for the month of September, from 4.0 million tons in 2013 to 2.5 million tons this year.
Meanwhile imports were up by 8.7 percent for the month, from 1.2 million in 2013 to 1.3 million in 2014. Overall, imports were up by 40.9% for the month of September 2014, compared to the same month in 2013, from 815,000 tons in 2013 to 1.15 million tons in 2014. Year-to-date, imports were also up – by 39.% – from 6.5 million tons in 2013 to 9.2 million tons in 2014.
Electric output was down by 7%, however, steel production was up 0.5% for the week ending November 29
In West Virginia, coal production was down 0.7% for the 52 weeks ending November 29, from 113.3 million tons in 2013 to just 112.4 million tons in 2014. Production in northern West Virginia was up by 7.8%, however, from just 42.38 million in 2013 to 45.68 million in 2014. However, production in southern West Virginia was off by 5.8%, from 70.9 million tons in 2013 to 66.7 million tons in 2014.
According to EIA, Central Appalachian coal was selling on the spot market for $56.10 a ton. Meanwhile Northern Appalachian coal was selling for $65.30 per ton. Meanwhile Illinois Basin coal was selling at $44.55 per ton and Powder River Basin Coal was selling at $11.55 per ton. Natural gas prices on the Henry Hub continued their recent rise at approximately $4.45 per million Btu – an increase from $3.50 per million Btu in October. Natural gas remains below its $8 per million Btu peak of last January and February, during the “Arctic Vortex.”
Also, utilities in the northeast U.S. report, as of September 2014, their stockpiles of bituminous coal are up to approximately 88 days of burn with their stocks of sub-bituminous coal up to 133 days. In the southeast, utilities are reporting stockpiles of bituminous coal at 86 days and sub-bituminous at 69 days. Midwest utilities report stockpiles of bituminous coal at 69 days and sub-bituminous at 42 days.
About the author: T.L. Headley is a journalist and public relations professional specializing in the energy industry and economic development. He holds an MBA from West Virginia University and an MA in public relations/journalism from Marshall and is working toward a Ph.D. in Education. He is 2001 graduate of the state Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership West Virginia program. He is a native of Lincoln County.