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US coal to boost production, lose generation in 2022: EIA


Russia-Ukraine war uncertainty affects projections

Coal fleet faces fuel-delivery constraints

  • Author
  • Morgan Snook
  • Editor
  • Valarie Jackson
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power LNG Natural Gas

US coal production is projected to rise 3% in 2022 even as coal-fired generation decreases as domestic utilities seek to replenish depleted stockpiles, the US Energy Information Administration said May 10.

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"The forecast increase occurs despite our expectation that coal use in the power sector will decline," EIA said in its May Short-Term Energy Outlook. "We expect rising coal production will replenish electric power sector inventories in 2023 that were depleted during 2021."

The EIA projects 2022 coal production at 598.3 million st, revising downward their previous month's estimate by 3.7% partly because of widespread logistical issues preventing coal-market movements. In 2023, production is forecasted at 605.2 million st, a 4.4% downward revision from the prior month's estimate.

"Although exports and inventory builds contribute to rising coal production in the forecast, labor shortages, rail congestion, and challenges obtaining equipment are expected to limit production gains," the EIA said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine also contributed to the EIA's energy-production forecasts as trade flows have been interrupted by the conflict.

"A wide range of potential macroeconomic outcomes could significantly affect energy markets during the forecast period," EIA said. "Major factors driving energy supply uncertainty include how sanctions affect Russia's oil production, the production decisions of OPEC+, and the rate at which US oil and natural gas producers increase drilling."

Exports are projected to rise amid strong global coal demand and pricing, in part because of the war, but logistical constraints will limit production despite higher prices, the EIA projected.

Coal exports are estimated at 85.7 million st in 2022 and 88.8 million st in 2023. Coal electricity consumption is estimated at 486.9 million st in 2022 and 466.7 million st in 2023. Total coal consumption is forecast to be 531.2 million st in 2022 and 510.2 million st in 2023. Coal generation is projected at 21.3% in 2022 and 20.3% in 2023. EIA estimates that nominal delivered coal prices will average $1.98/MMBtu in 2022 and $1.95/MMBtu in 2023.

Natural gas generation is projected at 36.8% in 2022 and 36.1% in 2023. Henry Hub natural gas spot prices are estimated to average $7.70/MMBtu in 2022 and $4.93/MMBtu in 2023. Dry gas production is estimated at 96.69 Bcf/d in 2022 and 101.71 Bcf/d in 2023. LNG exports are estimated at 11.98 Bcf/d in 2022 and 12.63 Bcf/d in 2023. Natural gas for power consumption is projected at 31.52 Bcf/d in 2022 and 31.29 Bcf/d in 2023.

"Despite significantly higher natural gas fuel costs this year compared with last year, we do not expect an increase in electricity generation from coal-fired power plants, which have in the past acted as a primary substitute for natural gas in the power industry," EIA said. "Along with the continued retirement of coal-fired generating capacity, the remaining coal fleet has been facing constraints in regard to fuel delivery and coal stocks."