WEEKLY COAL PRODUCTION AND PRICE REPORT 6/12/15: U.S. Coal Production Essentially Unchanged from Last Week

Coal Commodity Region/Fuel          Avg. BTU SO2 Price  Price/mmBTU
Central Appalachia              12,500 1.2  $52.75  $2.11
Northern Appalachia              13,000 3  $58.75  $2.26
Illinois Basin              11,800 5  $40.45  $1.71
Powder River Basin                8,800 0.8  $11.55  $0.66
Uinta Basin              11,700 0.8  $39.30  $1.68
Natural Gas (Henry Hub)                 n/a 0.01       n/a  $2.78

By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MAT, MA
CHARLESTON — Coal production in the U.S. finished the week up slightly compared to terrylast week, but continues to be down from last year. Production for the week ending June 6th rose 3/10ths of one percent from last week, but remains 18% below last year’s levels, according to the latest report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA).
Production in the United States rose by 56 thousand tons to finish the week at 15.12 million tons compared to last week’s total of 15.07 million tons. Production for the week, however, is off by 3.31 million tons from the 18.44 million tons for the same week in 2014. Cumulative production for the year-to-date is also down sharply as of June 6, coming in at 394.03 million tons compared to 427.99 million tons last year – a decline of 33.96 million tons or 7.9%. Production for the previous 52 weeks also trended lower – finishing at 963.29 million tons compared to 987.50 million tons for the same period ending in 2014 (-2.5%).
The number of rail car loadings was also down sharply, finishing the week down 19% from the same period last year. Rail car loadings also continued their decline year-to-date – off 7.6% from the same period in 2014.
Coal exports (reported through April) are sharply lower compared to the same week last year. Metallurgical exports were down 15.6% to 4.23 million tons compared to 5.01 million tons for the same week in 2014. Steam coal exports were down 5.4% to 2.91 million tons compared to 3.07 million tons compared to last year. Imports of coal were also down – off 5.4% to 879,000 tons compared to 930,000 tons in 2014.  However, year-to-date imported coal to the U.S. is up 15.1 percent to 3.89 million tons, compared to 3.38 million tons in 2014.
Electric output was off 6 percent compared to the same week in 2014. With 74.76 MWH of electricity produced compared to 79.56 MWH produced for the same period last year.
Domestic steel output finished sharply down for the week, returning to its long-term downward trend. According to numbers from the American Iron and Steel Institute, domestic steel production was down 8.8% for the week, at 1.72 million tons, with a capacity utilization factor of 72.8%, compared to the same week in 2014.  And steel production continues its slide year-to-date – down 7.3% to 38.36 million tons produced compared to 41.39 million tons for the same period last year. As noted in previous reports, steel production is a strong indicator of the status of the broader economy and the continued declines we are seeing point to declines in durable goods orders and a softening of the national economy in the near- to mid-term.
In terms of regional coal production, all three basins reported slight increases in production over the past week compared to the previous week, however all remain down sharply compared to the same week in 2014..
The Appalachian Basin finished at 4.14 million tons, ticking up from 4.13 million tons last week. Interior Basin production also finished up slightly, at 2.85 million tons compared to 2.84 million tons last week. Western production finished the week at 8.12 million tons from 8.10 million tons last week. However, these numbers are sharply below the same week in 2014. The Appalachian Basin is off by 21% from the same week last year. The Interior Basin is off 16% from 2014. And Western production is off 17.5% from the same period in 2014.
All three basins also continue to report significant declines in production year-to-date, with Appalachia down 9.6%, the Interior Basin off 7.1% and the Western Basin down 7.4%.
Looking at the previous 52 weeks, all three basins are trending lower for the period ending June 6, with the Appalachian Basin down 4.5%, the Interior Basin down 0.5% and the Western Region down 2.1%. Production in the Interior Basin fell to 182.64 million tons from 183.52 million tons for the same period in 2014. Appalachian production fell for the period to 256.10 million tons from 268.08 million tons. Meanwhile, Western production is down to 524.55 million tons from 535.90 million tons in 2014.
According to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, coal production in the state for 2015 (reported through June 11, 2015) stands at 40.53 million tons year-to-date, with 32.76 million tons produced underground and 7.77 million tons produced through surface operations. The number of mines reporting production dropped to just 111. The number of mines reporting production is subject to change as additional reports are submitted.
The number of active miners working, however, ticked down, coming in at 15,395 compared to 15,461 last week. Underground operations had 12,512 direct mining employees while surface operations felt to 2,878 employees. Again, we expect those numbers to change with additional reports.
Production rose slightly in both the northern and southern coalfields of West Virginia compared to last week, by 4/10ths of a percent in both areas, however year-to-date, production is off by 2.7% and 15.5% respectively.
Coal production in Kentucky for the week ending June 6 was up slightly from the previous week but remains down sharply from the same period in 2014. Kentucky production for the week was reported at 1.17 compared to 1.16 million tons last week and 1.49 million tons for the same week in 2014, with the state seeing significant declines in both its eastern and western fields year over year. Year to date, production in Kentucky is off by 10.9 percent.
Meanwhile, coal production in Kentucky is off by 6.6% for the previous 52 weeks, with western Kentucky reporting a 6.2% decline and eastern Kentucky operations reporting a decline of 6.9% year-over-year.
Wyoming coal production was down sharply for the week compared to 2014, coming in at 5.87 million tons, compared to 5.85 million tons the previous week, but was down from the 7.08 million tons produced for the same week in 2014 – a decline of 17.1%. For the previous 52 weeks, Wyoming production is down 2.7%. Illinois production also finished sharply lower for the week, coming in at 927,000 tons compared to 1.02 million tons for the same period in 2014. Indiana production is down as well, coming in at 582,000 tons compared to 724,000 tons for the week in 2014. Pennsylvania production for the week finished down slightly, to 1.03 million tons versus 1.17 million tons for the same week in 2014, but remains up 5.6% for the previous 52 weeks. Ohio production is off as well – dropping to 333,000 tons compared to 473,000 tons in 2014. Ohio coal production is off 12.5 percent for the previous 52 weeks, compared to the same period ending in 2014. Virginia production was also off this week – to 219,000 tons compared to 296,000 tons for the same week in 2014. Virginia production for the previous 52 weeks is off by 13.1 percent.
Coal prices on the spot market were unchanged this week. Central Appalachian coal held at $52.75 per ton or $2.11 per mmBtu. Northern Appalachian coal held at $58.75 per ton or $2.27 per mmBtu. Illinois Basin coal prices held at $40.45 per ton or $1.71 per mmBtu, while Powder River Basin coal remained steady at $11.55 per ton or $0.66 per mmBtu, and Uinta Basin coal prices held firm at $39.20 per ton or $1.68 per mmBtu.
Meanwhile, on the NYMEX Coal Futures board, Central Appalachian coal was trading at $44.3per ton while Western Rail was selling at $9.95 per short ton and Eastern Rail was selling at $41.87 per short ton.
Natural gas prices on the Henry Hub finished the week up down 13 cents to $2.65 per mmBtu. Natural gas producers again reported a significant increase in their stored reserves – up 132 billion cubic feet compared to the previous week, for a total of 2.23 trillion cubic feet in storage. This week’s working natural gas rotary rig count remained at 868, down by 7 from last week and down from 1,860 a year ago – down 53.4%. This number includes rigs working in both oil and gas plays.

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