Weekly Coal Production and Price Report for February 20, 2014

By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MA, MA, BAterry

According to the latest report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), coal production in the United States rose by slightly more than 500,000 tons for the week ending February 14, compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 19.18 million tons compared to 19.09 million tons for the last week in 2014.  For the 52-week period ending February 14, production was also up, to 997.77 million tons from 980.46 million tons last year.
This increase was reflected in the number of rail car loadings, which saw an increase of 1.8% for the week over the same period last year. Rail car loadings were up 3.6% for the previous 52 weeks.
Export and import tonnage data was not reported this week.
Electric output was off – down 6.9% for the week ending February 14 – and is down slightly (-3.7%) for the year. Steel output also fell, down 3.5% to 1.77 million tons – and has dipped slightly for the year to 11.64 million tons produced compared to 11.73 million tons last year. This decline in steel production is considered a leading indicator of the broader economy and declines in steel production usually translate into declines in durable goods orders.
Looking at regional coal production, Appalachian coal production was up for the week – rising to 5.25 million tons from 4.95 million tons last week. Interior Basin production was also up for the week – coming in at 3.60 million tons from 3.38 million tons last week. Western production also finished up for the week, to 10.34 million tons from 9.75 million tons last week.
In a reversal of recent trends, regional production for the three primary production basins for the previous 52 weeks ending February 14, however, all saw slight increases. For the year, Appalachia production was up slightly by 0.5% to 270.44 million tons, up from 269.01 million tons in 2014. Interior Basin production was also up for the period — by 2.7%, to 187.46 million tons from 182.59 million tons last year. Meanwhile, Western production was up 2.1%, to 539.87 million tons from 528.87 million tons in 2014.
According to preliminary final data, the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training reports coal production in the state for 2014 (reported through February 14, 2015) West Virginia currently stands at 122.63 million tons, of which 92.58 million tons was produced underground and 30.05 million tons was produced via surface mining. There are currently 116 mines reporting production in the state. Direct mining employment currently stands at 20,099 miners, with 14,073 working primarily underground, another 4,086 working on surface operations in the state and 1,940 working at coal handling facilities. The WVOMHST reports that another 28,940 West Virginians are employed as independent contractors in direct support roles to mining. West Virginia production is now slightly ahead of last year’s production total, by approximately two million tons. These are preliminary final figures for the year but are subject to change with some reports remaining outstanding.
Coal prices on the spot market were mixed this week. Central Appalachian coal held steady at $53.06 per ton. Northern Appalachian coal also held steady in price at $63.15 per ton. Illinois Basin coal prices dropped to $45.732 per ton (down $3/ton from last week). Meanwhile, Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal prices remained steady – at $11.55 and $38.13 per ton respectively.
Natural gas prices ticked up on the Henry Hub to approximately $2.93 per million Btu. Natural gas producers reported significant declines in their stored reserves – off 113 billion cubic feet compared to last month, with rig counts holding at approximately 400 compared to a high of 1600 in late 2008. It is important to note that most of the loss in rig counts has come from shutting down less efficient vertical shafts and directional shaft rigs, while modern horizontal drilling counts have held fairly steady for the three years.
Utilities did not issue updates to their stockpile reports this week.

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