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US coal exports on track for 2nd-highest year behind 2012

U.S. coal exports totaled 9.1 million tonnes in August, up 5.5% from July and up 17.3% from the year-ago month, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Oct. 5.

Through August, U.S. coal exports total 70.5 million tonnes, up 29.8% compared with the same period last year, while exports on an annualized basis would total 105.7 million tonnes, the highest total since 2012, when U.S. exports peaked at 114.2 million tonnes.

Exports have been higher this year for both metallurgical and thermal coal due to tight global supply and higher demand for both types of coal.

Met coal exports in August totaled 5.2 million tonnes, up 19.1% from the prior month and up 9.3% from the year-ago month.

Top met coal export destinations in August were the Netherlands at 977,191 tonnes, compared with 274,661 tonnes in the year-ago month; Brazil at 539,866 tonnes, compared with 482,200 tonnes; and Japan at 488,179 tonnes, compared with 45,790 tonnes.

For the year, top met coal export destinations were Brazil, at 5 million tonnes, compared with 4.2 million tonnes in the year-ago period; India, at 4.1 million tonnes, compared with 2.3 million tonnes; and the Netherlands, at 3.95 million tonnes, compared with 2 million tonnes.

Year-to-date, met coal exports totaled 38.3 million tonnes, up 20.6% from the year-ago period. On an annualized basis, met coal exports for the full year would total 57.5 million tonnes, the highest since 2013.

Bituminous coal exports in August totaled 3.3 million tonnes, down 10.5% from July but up 40.8% from last year. Year-to-date, bituminous coal exports total 27 million tonnes, and would total 40.6 million tonnes on an annualized basis, highest since 2012, when thermal exports peaked at 41.1 million tonnes.

Top bituminous coal export destinations in August were India at 796,394 tonnes, compared with 586,531 tonnes last year; Japan at 379,503 tonnes, compared with 124,613 tonnes; and Germany at 275,185 tonnes, compared with 75,587 tonnes.

For the year, the top bituminous coal export destinations are India at 6.8 million tonnes, compared with 3.3 million tonnes in the year-ago period; the Netherlands at 2.7 million tonnes, compared with 4 million tonnes; and Japan at 2.4 million tones, compared with 1.4 million tonnes.

Subbituminous coal exports totaled 637,339 tonnes in August, up 9.5% from last month but down 0.1% from the year-ago month. Year-to-date subbituminous coal exports totaled 4.8 million tonnes, down 4% from the year-ago period, while exports on an annualized basis would total 7.2 million tonnes, highest since 2013.

The top importer of U.S. subbituminous coal in August was South Korea at 453,191 tonnes, compared with 453,310 tonnes last year, followed by Mexico at 153,550 tonnes, compared with 163,581 tonnes last year. The third biggest was Japan, which took 30,405 tonnes in August, up from zero in the same month last year.

For the year, the top subbituminous coal export destinations were South Korea at 3 million tonnes, compared with 2.5 million tonnes in the year-ago period; Mexico at 1.3 million tonnes, compared with 1.5 million tonnes; and China at 332,247 tonnes, compared with 156,359 tonnes.

Andrew Moore is a reporter for S&P Global Platts, which, like S&P Global Market Intelligence, is owned by S&P Global Inc.