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Chart Watch: US coal exports getting scarcer around world

Even while some analysts are seeing some short-term benefitfor the coal market as producers work on cutting glut this summer, the globalexport market for U.S. coal continues to fade.

The U.S. exported a total of 20.8 million tonnes of coal inthe first five months of 2016, according to data reported by the U.S.Department of Commerce. This number dropped around 36% from the 32.6 milliontonnes of coal exported from the U.S. in the first five months of 2015.

Markets in Asia continue to take less coal imports from theU.S., receiving only 5.6 million tonnes in the first five months of 2016. Asiaimported 8.9 million tonnes in the first five months of 2015. "We really don't see a lot of U.S. materialsfloating over [in Asia]. Everyone seems to be Chapter 11 right now," saidXizhou Zhou, senior director of IHS Energy, at a recent hosted by the U.S.Energy Information Administration.

Europe was the largest destination of exports, as the U.S.exported around 9.5 million tonnes there in the first five months of 2016,though this number fell 44% from the roughly 17 million tonnes exported toEurope in the year-ago period.

Tom Sanzillo, the director of finance at the Institute forEnergy Economics and Financial Analysis, whose stated mission is to reduce dependenceon coal and other nonrenewable energy resources, says the global market forU.S. coal is continuing to shrink. "Declining coal demand from Europe and Asia drove thedecline," he told S&P Global Market Intelligence. "Demand for U.S. coal was alsodown from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan. The one increasein exports from the United States to India takes place against a backdropof declining overall imports to India and a national policy goal to reduce coalimports to zero."

Experts at the EIA conference said that coal demand fromcountries like China, India, and Indonesia are likely to rise until a mid-2020speak, at which point it will begin to shrink. This may not mean more coalexports from the U.S., however, since local sources in the area are likely toincrease production.

Metallurgical coal took thelargest share of the overall export market for the first five months of 2016,coming in at 15.2 million tonnes. Bituminous coal came in atsecond with around 4.5 million tonnes exported.

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To access SNL Energy's CoalImport and Export tool, click here.