U.S. coal production is on the rise, hitting a high last week of 17.025 million tons, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s 3.4 percent more than in the previous week and 12.3 percent over the output for the same week a year earlier. Year-to-date coal output was also higher than last year’s comparable period, by 14.2 percent to 499.3 million short tons.
Despite the rise in U.S. coal production, coal inventory seems to be falling, Platts estimates suggest. The company’s Bentek Energy unit estimated inventories of the fossil fuel at 124.9 million short tons as of August 24th, 19 percent below the five-year average for the month and the lowest monthly since September 2014.
The increase in year-to-date production was a result of higher natural gas prices, Platts notes. At the same time, however, U.S. coal exports increased, at least in the first quarter of the year, the latest available data from the EIA shows. Between January and March, the country exported 22.3 million short tons of coal, up 15.3 percent on a quarterly basis and 57.6 percent on an annual basis.
Saving the coal industry and using it to ensure the energy independence of the U.S. was a priority for the Trump campaign, and now the administration is keeping its promise. Earlier this week the Department of Energy released a report, which recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency relax the rules for coal plants to avoid wide-scale closures, which, the report says, would threaten the security of the national grid.
Environmentalists had feared the report would pit coal and other fossil fuels against renewables but this did not happen, although Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who commissioned the report, has warned more than once that policies in favor of renewables could be detrimental to coal plants and grid security, Bloomberg notes
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.