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U.S. Exports of Steam Coal Reached 5-Year High in 2023

Lower domestic coal consumption and higher demand in Asia pushed U.S. exports of thermal coal in 2023 to the highest level since 2018, Reuters reported on Thursday, quoting data from ship-tracking firm Kpler.

The United States exported last year more than 32.5 million metric tons of thermal – or steam – coal, used primarily in electricity generation, per the data reported by Reuters columnist Gavin Maguire.

In terms of export revenues, the United States hauled in more than $5 billion from thermal coal shipments in 2023, the second-largest revenues since 2017. The highest coal export revenues since 2017 were achieved in 2022—at $5.7 billion, per figures cited by Reuters.

Climate think tank Ember notes that coal use in U.S. power generation sank last year to the lowest in the 21st century. 

India continued to be the top destination for U.S. thermal coal exports in 2023.

Per Energy Information Administration data for 2022, India accounted for 19% of U.S. coal exports, followed by the Netherlands, whose import hubs are the entry point to Europe, and by Japan, Brazil, and South Korea.

As domestic consumption of U.S. coal is set to drop, the EIA expects in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) exports to account for a larger share of total U.S. coal consumption.

Exports are expected to make up 19% of total coal demand in the U.S. in 2024 and 21% in 2025, up from a share of 14% in 2019, due to falling domestic demand, especially from the electric power sector.

“The pickup in exports reflects more demand for U.S. coal in foreign markets, especially in Asia where coal consumption was on track to hit record levels in 2023,” the EIA said in an analysis earlier this week.

This increase in demand for U.S. coal is primarily for thermal coal in Europe and Asia, where U.S. coal exporters have grabbed a small share of the growing market. Demand for U.S. coal increased following the embargoes of Russia’s coal in several markets. Demand for U.S. metallurgical coal, used primarily in steelmaking, has remained steady in foreign markets given its high quality for blast furnace coking, the EIA said. 

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • George Doolittle on February 01 2024 said:
    I know of only one export terminal for all of North America so I think that severely limits the ability to sell this fuel abroad by the USA. In theory the USA could export massive amounts of cars, trucks, aircraft, ships, rail cars, prime movers, electronics, displays, software, movies, on-line media product, weapons of course presumably financial services, telecom equipment, rocket launch, satellite services, packaging, warehousing, distribution, farm equipment, food...the list remains endless still really.

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