U.S. coal output last week stood at 16.7 million short tons, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration. This compares to 17.025 million tons in the prior week – a record-high for 2017. Both weekly figures represent substantial increases on an annual basis, by 9.6 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
Over the long term, however, the increase will be unsustainable, analysts believe. The current increase is prompted by an increase in international coal prices, itself driven by an output decline in China and supply disruptions elsewhere, CNBC reports. This sort of context, however, only occurs once every few years, so U.S. coal miners shouldn’t get their hopes up too much, these analysts warn.
Still, year-to-date coal production is higher than even the comparable period of 2016, at 516.1 million short tons at the end of last week, up by 14 percent on an annual basis.
The bulk of U.S. coal continued to come from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, with output for the seven days to August 26 at 8 million tons, up 6 percent from the same week in August 2016. Coal output from Appalachia stood at 3.99 million tons. Output from the Illinois Basin came in at 2.06 million tons.
Based on production rates so far this year, projections are that the U.S. will produce 786.8 million tons of the fossil fuel in 2017. Consumption, according to EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, will this year stand at 745.7 million tons, up from 729.6 million tons last year, and to rise further to 754.6 million tons in 2018.
Exports are also on the rise this year, the EIA reported last month, with shipments over the first quarter of 2017 surging by 58 percent. This, however, was expected to slow down through the rest of the year, with the total 2017 exports at 72 million tons, up 19 percent on 2016.
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.