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Matt Smith

Matt Smith

Taking a voyage across the world of energy with ClipperData’s Director of Commodity Research. Follow on Twitter @ClipperData, @mattvsmith01

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Ten Facts About Coal You Probably Didn’t Know

Ten Facts About Coal You Probably Didn’t Know

While I’ve been digging into a bunch of different commodities recently, there have been a number of interesting bits and bobs relating to coal that I’ve been squirreling away. Hence, here are ten tidbits that I wanted to share:

1) Coal is currently used to meet 30% of global primary energy needs, which is the highest level since 1970. It is used to generate 41% of the world’s electricity and is used in the production of 70% of the world’s steel.

2)  According to the World Resources Institute, almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants had been proposed globally in 2012, with China and Pakistan accounting for the majority of these projects.

3) Japan, a country with no natural energy resources to speak of, invested $19.7 billion in overseas coal projects in the last seven years according to the NRDC. Germany’s state development bank, KfW, followed a similar path, lending $3.7 billion in the last eight years to coal projects in Greece, India, Serbia, South Africa and Australia.

4)  As the chart below from the IEA illustrates, international trade in coal is hardly on the wane. Coal exports totaled 1,300 million tonnes last year. The top five coal importers are China, Japan, India, Korea, and Chinese Taipei (note: all in Asia), while the top five exporters are Indonesia, Australia, Russia, the US and Colombia).

International trade in coal

5) Recent research states as much as one fifth of global exports lose money at $72 a ton.

6) Over 2,000 smaller mines in China are expected to close by 2015, as a growing share of coal production is uneconomic. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, output in China – the world’s biggest producer – rose to 3.68 billion tons in 2013, up from 3.65 billion the previous year.

7) Beijing is banning coal use in six main districts of Beijing by 2020 in an effort to combat air pollution. It will stop the use of coal and coal products and shut down all coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities. Coal accounts for approximately one quarter of the city’s total energy consumption.

8) US coal consumption is expected to grow by 2.5% to 949 million short tons this year, according to the EIA, due to its relative attractiveness in the face of higher year-over-year natural gas prices. It is expected to drop by 2.7% in 2015, however, due to coal plant retirements (h/t the MATS ruling from the EPA).

US coal consumption

9) US coal production is expected to grow 2.5% this year, according to the EIA, due to aforementioned higher consumption, as well as a need to replenish inventories.

10) Over 60% of Africa lacks access to electricity (aka over 600 million people). The EIA projects Africa to increase its coal consumption by 70% by 2040. It has 35 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves, but as the BP statistical review highlights, comparatively low levels of both production and consumption compared with other regions of the world.

coal production 

That’s it for now on coal. As always, thanks for playing!

By. Matt Smith of Energy Burrito




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  • hari on July 27 2015 said:
    very interesting. lucky to open this wonderful sight. woooooooooooh
  • herpy on December 02 2015 said:
    this is cool site
  • bruh on April 13 2016 said:
    oh herro

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