By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MA, BA
Seeking Alpha Contributor
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — According to the latest report from the Energy
Information Agency (NYSEMKT:EIA), coal production in the United States rose by 390,000 tons for the week ending January 3, compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 17.61 million tons compared to 17.22 million tons for the first week of January, 2014. For the 52-week period ending January 3, production was also up slightly, to 994.3 million tons from 982.1 million tons last year.This increase was reflected in the number of rail car loadings, which saw an increase of 0.3 percent for the week over the same period last year. Rail car loadings were up 1.0 percent for the previous 52 weeks.
Metallurgical coal exports for the month of November (the most recent data available) dropped by 5.0 percent from a year ago to stand at 4.8 million tons. Steam coal, also continued its slide during the month of November, down 21.9 percent from a year ago to 2.7 million tons. Year-to-date through the end of November, both metallurgical and steam coal exports remain down compared to last year. Metallurgical coal is off 3.9 percent at 58.2 million tons while steam coal is off 32 percent at 31.8 million tons shipped.
Imports picked up in November – up 18 percent — to 1 million tons. Coal imports for the previous 52 weeks remain up 32 percent to 10.8 million tons.
Electric output was also off – down 2.1 percentfor the week ending January 3 – but is down slightly (also 2.1 percent) for the year. Steel output surged for the week – up 3.4 percent to 1.85 million tons – and continues to trend up slightly for the year at 93.7 million tons produced compared to 93.0 million tons last year.
Steel production finished the week up 3.9 percent from the same week a year ago, and is also up 3.9 percent for the previous 52 weeks.
Looking at regional coal production, Appalachian coal production was up slightly for the week – to 4.72 million tons from 4.69 million tons for the same week last year. Meanwhile, Interior Basin production was up slightly to 3.30 million tons from 3.27 million tons for the week last year. Western production was up slightly this week, to 9.58 million tons from 9.32 million tons for the first week of 2014.
Regional production for the three primary production basins for the previous 52 weeks ending January 3, however, reflected the longer term trends of reduced production in the Appalachia countered by increased production in the Interior and Western reserves. For the period, Appalachia production was down slightly by 0.4 percent to 269.70 million tons, off from 270.62 million tons in 2013. Interior Basin production was up for the period by 2.4 percent, to 186.0 from 182.61 million tons last year. Meanwhile, Western production was up 1.7 percent, to 537.66 million tons from 528.82 in 2013.
Citing “data quality issues” the EIA has decided not to report state-level estimates. We apologize for this and we will seek an alternate source of the information.
According to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, reported coal production for 2014 in West Virginia currently stands at 112.13 million tons, of which 84.50 million tons was produced underground and 27.64 million tons was produced via surface mining. There are currently 125 mines reporting production in the state. Direct mining employment currently stands at 18,257 miners, with 14,131 working primarily underground and another 4,126 working on surface operations in the state.
Coal prices on the spot market were mixed this week. Central Appalachian coal fell to $55.92 per ton, off from $56.10 last week. North Appalachian coal saw an increase in price to
$66.55 per ton, up from $65.30 per ton last week. Illinois Basin coal prices also saw an increase, at $45.70 per ton, up from $44.55 per ton a week ago. Likewise, Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal prices increased this week – at $12.10 and $38.30 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 64 billion cubic feet compared to last month.
Utilities reported that for the month of October, they held an average of 82 days worth of bituminous coal in stockpiles along with 50 days of sub-bituminous. This is significantly down from October 2013, down 10.1 percent and 18.4 percent respectively.
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.