U.S. coal exports totaled 8.7 million tonnes in July, down 6% from June and the lowest since 8.6 million tonnes was exported in March, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. However, the latest month was up 32.8% from 6.5 million tonnes shipped out in the year-ago month.
Thermal coal exports totaled 4.3 million tonnes, up 2.4% from June and 61.3% higher year on year. It was the second highest monthly export volume in the last five years, only behind 4.7 million tonnes in April 2018.
It was also the first time that thermal coal exports exceeded metallurgical coal shipments since February 2015.
Year-to-date thermal exports are at 28.2 million tonnes, up 44.8% from the first seven months of 2017.
Bituminous coal exports totaled 3.7 million tonnes in July, up 2.4% month on month and 82.5% from a year ago, despite India seeing a 31.5% monthly decrease.
India still received the largest volume of bituminous coal at 671,197 tonnes, down from 980,225 tonnes a month earlier. The next seven largest bituminous coal importing countries all saw monthly increases with Mexico and Japan importing over six year-highs at 478,601 tonnes and 370,335 tonnes, respectively. The Netherlands also imported 414,943 tonnes of bituminous coal in July, up 65.4% from 250,948 tonnes in June.
Subbituminous exports totaled 581,896 tonnes in July, down 4.9% from 612,148 tonnes from a month earlier and 5.7% lower than the year-ago month.
South Korea received 257,712 tonnes, or 44.3% of the total subbituminous exports in July, down from 425,457 tonnes, or 69.5%, a month earlier. Mexico imported a 12-month low 153,124 tonnes, down from 186,166 tonnes a month earlier, while China imported 170,274 tonnes, the most since 194,403 tonnes in December 2012.
Year-to-date bituminous exports are at 23.8 million tonnes, while subbituminous exports are at 4.14 million tonnes, up 60.4% and down 4.6%, respectively.
For the year, the top bituminous coal export destinations origination ports are India, at 6.0 million tonnes compared with 2.69 million tonnes in the year-ago period; the Netherlands, at 2.5 million tonnes compared with 3.4 million tonnes; Egypt at 2.1 million tonnes compared with 268,406 tonnes; Japan at 2.0 million tonnes, compared with 1.3 million tonnes; and Mexico, at 1.5 million tonnes compared with 116,707 tonnes.
Of the 16 largest bituminous coal importing countries, 15 have seen year-on-year increases, with Germany at a 7.4% decrease from the same period a year ago.
The top importing countries of US subbituminous coal for the first seven months are South Korea, at 2.5 million tonnes compared with 2.1 million tonnes last year; Mexico, at 1.2 million tonnes compared with 1.3 million tonnes; and China at 332,247 tonnes, compared with 156,359 tonnes.
Metallurgical coal exports at 6-month low
Metallurgical coal exports dropped to 4.3 million tonnes in July, down 13.1% from almost 5.0 million tonnes in June and the lowest since 4.2 million tonnes in January. However, the latest month was up 12.8% from 3.8 million tonnes in the year-ago month.
Brazil and India, the two largest metallurgical coal importers, both took delivery of nine-month lows in July at 518,992 tonnes and 234,494 tonnes, respectively, down from 528,992 tonnes and 711,185 tonnes in June. Compared with the year-ago month, Brazil saw a 17.9% decrease, while India was up 56.2%.
Japan imported 330,710 tonnes of metallurgical coal in July, down from 440,111 tonnes in June and 459,159 tonnes in the year-ago month, while South Korea brought in a 10-month high 392,284 tonnes, compared with 180,000 tonnes in June and 137,500 tonnes a year ago. China imported 110,000 tonnes, down from 445,674 tonnes a month earlier and 134,665 in the year-ago month, while exports into the Netherlands were at 408,214 tonnes, down from 491,080 tonnes in June but up from 253,265 tonnes in July 2017.
Year-to-date metallurgical exports are at 33.19 million tonnes, up 22.6% from 27.07 million tonnes form the same period a year ago.
For the year, the top metallurgical coal export destinations origination ports are Brazil, at 4.5 million tonnes compared with 3.7 million tonnes in the year-ago period; India, at 3.9 million tonnes compared with 1.7 million tonnes; Japan at 3.1 million tonnes compared with almost 3.0 million tonnes; and the Netherlands at 2.9 million tonnes, compared with 1.7 million tonnes. China and South Korea are also at 1.9 million tonnes and 1.5 million tonnes, respectively, compared with 1.5 million tonnes and 1.8 million tonnes a year ago.
Tyler Godwin is a reporter for S&P Global Platts. S&P Global Platts and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.