US Coal Production Jumps 16% from Previous Week but Remains Down 11% from 2014: Price Drop for Northern App and Illinois Basin Coal

Coal Commodity Region/Fuel  Avg. BTU  SO2  Price Price/mmBTU
Central Appalachia 12,500 1.2  $54.90 $2.20
Northern Appalachia 13,000 3  $53.20 $2.05
Illinois Basin 11,800 5  $34.35 $1.46
Powder River Basin   8,800 0.8  $11.55 $0.66
Uinta Basin 11,700 0.8  $39.35 $1.68
Natural Gas (Henry Hub)    n/a 0.01      n/a $2.75

By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MA

CHARLESTON — Coal production in the U.S. rose sharply for the week ending July 11. terryMeanwhile the decline from last year continues to expand according to the latest report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) for the week.

Production in the United States jumped by 2.3 million tons (16%) to finish the week at 16.40 million tons compared to last week’s total of 14.12 million tons. Meanwhile production for the week is off by 1.9 million tons (11%) from the 18.26 million tons for the same week in 2014. Cumulative production for the year-to-date remains down as of July 11, coming in at 475.40 million tons compared to 518.30 million tons last year – a decline of 434.85 million tons or 8.4%. Production for the previous 52 weeks also trended lower – finishing at 951.53 million tons compared to 985.08 million tons for the same period ending in 2014 (-3.2%).

Mirroring the coal production, the number of coal rail car loadings increased, finishing the week up 14.95% from the previous week, however, loadings are down sharply compared to the 2014 (-11%). Coal loadings also continued their decline year-to-date – off 9.3% from the same period in 2014.

Coal export/import data for May shows exports of metallurgical coal continues to trend lower – off 1.9% from 2014 at 4.55 million tons. Meanwhile exports of steam coal are off by 27.5% to 2.21 million tons. Imports of coal have also fallen – down 28.2% to just 919,000.  In terms of cumulative exports year-to-date, shipments of metallurgical coal have fallen by 14.6% compared to 2014 and steam exports have fallen 22.4%. Imports of coal have increased by 3.2% to 4.81 million tons of coal.

Electric output was down 2 percent compared to the same week in 2014, with 85.05 MWH of electricity produced compared to 86.74 MWH produced for the same period last year.

Domestic steel output, however, continued it’s near freefall this week.

According to numbers from the American Iron and Steel Institute, domestic raw steel production was down 9.1% for the week, at 1.74 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 7.6% to 46.99 million tons produced compared to 50.88 million tons for the same period last year.

In terms of regional coal production, all three major basins reported higher production for the past week compared to the previous week, but all remain down sharply compared to the same week in 2014.

The Appalachian Basin finished at 4.28 million tons, up from 3.76 million tons last week (+13.8%). Interior Basin production also finished up, at 3.16 million tons compared to 2.71 million tons last week (+17%). Western production finished the week at 8.96 million tons from 7.69 million tons last week (+16.5%). However, these numbers are sharply below the same week in 2014. The Appalachian Basin is off by 11.6% from the same week last year. The Interior Basin is off 10.8% from 2014. And Western production is off 9.7% from the same period in 2014.

All three basins also continue to report significant declines in production year-to-date, with Appalachia down 12.6%, the Interior Basin off 7.1% and the Western Basin down 6.7%.

Looking at the previous 52 weeks, all three basins are trending lower for the period ending July 11, with the Appalachian Basin down 6.7%, the Interior Basin down 0.9% and the Western Region down 2.3%. Production in the Interior Basin fell to 181.39 million tons from 183.00 million tons for the same period in 2014. Appalachian production fell for the period to 249.31 million tons from 267.12 million tons. Meanwhile, Western production is down to 522.73 million tons from 534.96 million tons in 2014.

According to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training, coal production in the state now stands at 47.60 million tons through July 9. Of that total, 38.20 million tons was by underground operations and 9.40 million tons was produced by surface mining. A total of 110 mines are now reporting production through May 2015.

According to WV OMHST, coal mining employment in West Virginia has now dropped to 15,269 total miners, with 12,451 working underground and 2,818 working on surface operations. The office does not report data for contract miners or preparation plant workers on a weekly basis.

According to EIA, West Virginia coal production for the week totaled 1.82 million tons compared to 1.59 million tons for the previous week (+14.5%).  However, this is off by 11.4% from the same week in 2014.
Production increased in both the northern and southern coalfields of West Virginia compared to last week, by 14.6% in the northern field and 13.4% in the southern coalfields. Production is off in both areas year-to-date, by 1.1% and 17.8% respectively.

Coal production in Kentucky for the week ending July 11 was also up sharply compared to the previous week but remains down from the same period in 2014. Kentucky production for the week was reported at 1.20 million tons, up from 1.06 million tons last week but down from the 1.42 million tons for the same week in 2014. Both the eastern and western regions of Kentucky reported significant increases in production from the previous week but the state continues to see significant declines in both fields year over year. Year to date, production in Kentucky is off by 16.2%. Meanwhile production in the state is off by 9.9% for the previous 52 weeks, with western Kentucky reporting an 8.3% decline and eastern Kentucky operations reporting a decline of 11.6% year-over-year.

Wyoming coal production was also up for the week, coming in at 6.52 million tons, compared to 5.58 million tons the previous week, but down from the 7.21 million tons produced for the same week in 2014 – a decline of 9.6%. For the previous 52 weeks, Wyoming production is down 1.9%.

Illinois production was up, finishing the week at 1.08 million tons compared to 921,000 tons last week. However, Illinois production is up by 13.6% for the previous 52 weeks. Indiana production is up as well, coming in at 621,000 tons compared to 539,000 tons for the week in 2014. Indiana production is also down by 6.2% over the previous 52 weeks. Pennsylvania production for the week also finished up, to just 1.02 million tons versus 899.000 tons for the previous week, but production in the Keystone State is now down slightly (0.4%) for the previous 52 weeks.

Ohio production also finished higher – at 338,000 tons compared to 302,000 tons the previous week. Ohio coal production is off 13.3% for the previous 52 weeks, compared to the same period ending in 2014. Virginia production increased this week – to 224,000 tons compared to 199,000 tons for last week. Virginia production for the previous 52 weeks is off by 14.4%.

Coal prices on the spot market were mixed this week. Central Appalachian coal added 10 cents to $54.90 per ton or $2.20 per mmBtu. Northern Appalachian coal fell by almost $5 per ton to come in at $53.20 per ton or $2.05 per mmBtu. Illinois Basin coal fell by more than $6 per ton to close at $34.35 per ton or $1.46 per mmBtu, while Powder River Basin coal fell by 55 cents a ton to close at $11.55 per ton or $0.66 per mmBtu, and Uinta Basin coal prices held steady at $39.35 per ton or $1.68 per mmBtu.

Meanwhile, on the NYMEX Coal Futures board, Central Appalachian coal was trading at $41.03 per ton while Western Rail was selling at $10.05 per short ton and Eastern Rail was selling at $42.06 per short ton.

Natural gas prices on the Henry Hub finished the week down, at $2.75 per mmBtu. Natural gas producers again reported a significant increase in their stored reserves – up 91 billion cubic feet compared to the previous week, for a total of 2.67 trillion cubic feet in storage. This week’s working natural gas rotary rig count remained at 863 from last week and down by 1,012 rigs from a year ago – down 54%. This number includes rigs working in both oil and gas plays.

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