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US 2021 coal production estimated to rise 7.8% on year: EIA

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US 2021 coal production estimated to rise 7.8% on year: EIA

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2021 production forecast declines for fourth straight month

Coal to make up 22.6% of 2021 power share, 22.8% in 2022

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  • Tyler Godwin
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  • Richard Rubin
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Houston — The US is estimated to produce 581.2 million st of coal in 2021, the Energy Information Administration said in a March 9 report, lowering its monthly estimate for the fourth straight month, or by roughly 8 million st, or 1.4%, from February.

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However, the 2021 production would be 7.8% higher than the 55-year low 539.1 million st produced in 2020, while the 2022 production estimate rose 2.7% on the month to 610.3 million st, the EIA said in its March Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Power-sector coal consumption is projected to be 504.6 million st in 2021 and 517.2 million st in 2022, up from 436.5 million st in 2020. Average stockpiles in the electric sector are expected to fall to 99.9 million st at the end of 2021, from 132.7 million st in 2020. Inventories are expected to fall again to 69.6 million st at the end of 2022.

The EIA said the "recent extreme cold weather in much of the country contributed to an increase in coal use for power generation," but added that the "supply for rising coal-fired generation will be partly met by draws from on-site stockpiles at power plants."

Total consumption, including by petcoke plants and retail, is estimated at 546.6 million st in 2021 and 558.8 million st in 2022, up from 477.3 million st in 2020.

Coal is expected to have the second-largest generation share in 2021 by making up 22.6% of US power generation and 22.8% in 2022, compared with 19.9% generated from coal in 2020. Coal is estimated to have the largest share in the Midcontinent ISO with 41.2% in 2021 and 40.8% in 2022, up from 37% in 2020, while making up 29% of the Southwest Power Pool share in 2021 and 29.5% in 2022, compared with 29.3% in 2020.

Renewables are projected to make up 21.2% of the stack in 2021 and 22.6% in 2022, up from 19.7% in 2020.

Power generation from natural gas is estimated at 35.8% in 2021 and 34.9% in 2022, compared with 39.2% in 2020.

The estimated decrease in natural gas generation is largely due to a rise in spot Henry Hub gas prices, which is forecast to average $3.27/MMBtu this year and $3.28/MMBtu in 2022, up from $2.11/MMBtu in 2020.

Due to the increase in prices, however, dry gas production is also expected to rise to an average 91.3 Bcf/d in 2021 and 92.8 Bcf/d in 2022, compared with 91.3 Bcf/d averaged in 2020.

Exports expected to rise from four-year low

Coal exports are projected to be at 84.5 million st in 2021, up from the four-year low 69.1 million st in 2020. Exports are expected to increase again in 2022 to 88.6 million st.

Thermal coal export volumes are estimated at 32.2 million st in 2021 and 35 million st in 2022, up from 27 million st in 2020.

The remaining 52.4 million st in 2021 are expected to be metallurgical coal exports, while 2022 exports are projected at 53.6 million st. In 2020, the US exported roughly 42.1 million st of met coal.

Exports are expected to make up 14.5% of the total US coal production in 2021 and 2022, up from 12.8% in 2020, according to EIA data.