BY T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MAT, MA, BA
For the West Virginia Coal Association
CHARLESTON — According to the latest report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), coal production in the United States rose by 1.8 million tons for the week ending December 13, compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 19.8 million tons compared to 18 million tons in 2013. Year-to-date, production was also up slightly, to 944.6 million tons from 939 million tons in 2013. This increase was reflected in the number of rail car loadings, which saw an increase of 7.5% for the week over the same period last year. Rail car loadings were also up 0.2% year-to-date.
Metallurgical coal exports surged for the week, increasing 5.4% from a year ago to stand at 5.7 million tons. Steam coal, however, continued its slide, down 49.5% for the week from a year ago to just 2.2 million tons. Year-to-date, both metallurgical and steam coal exports remain down compared to last year. Metallurgical coal is off 3.8% at 53.5 million tons while steam coal is off 33% at just 29.1 million tons shipped.
Imports also slipped this week – down 17.1% — to just 586,000 tons. However coal imports for the year remain up sharply – up 33.8% to 9.8 million tons – over last year.Electric demand was also off – down 10.2% for the week – but remains up slightly (0.7%) for the year.
Steel output surged this week – up 5.1% to 1.9 million tons – and continues to trend up slightly for the year at 91.9 million tons produced compared to 91.2 million tons last year.
Coal production in West Virginia ticked up for the week, from 2.13 million tons in 2013 to 2.18 million tons this year. Year-over-year, West Virginia production is down slightly – off 0.1% to 112.8 million tons, down from 112.9 million tons in 2013. Northern West Virginia production continues to surge – up 7.9% to 45.7 million tons for the year – while Southern West Virginia production continues to trend below last year – off 4.9% to 67.1 million tons for the year.
Overall, Appalachian coal production for the year is off by 0.4% at 270.3 million tons.
Interior Basin coal production is up 2 percent to 185.8 million tons. Meanwhile, western coal production is up 1 percent to 531.7 million tons, led by Wyoming, which is up 0.8% to 389.3 million tons.Coal prices on the spot market slipped a little this week.
Central Appalachian coal fell back to $56.10 per ton from $56.30 last week. North Appalachian coal also slipped back to $65.30 per ton from $63.55 a week ago. Illinois Basin coal prices declined as well, down to $44.55 per ton from $44.70 last week. Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal prices remained unchanged this week – at $11.55 and $37.75 per ton respectively.
Natural gas prices stopped their recent decline, remaining essentially steady on the Henry Hub at approximately $3.60 per million Btu. Natural gas producers reported significant declines in their stored reserves – off 51 billion cubic feet compared to last month.
Utilities did not update their coal stockpile report for the week.
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.