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US coal rail traffic drops 4.1%, production inches up 2.7% YOY

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Essential Energy Insights - February 2021

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Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021

Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021


US coal rail traffic drops 4.1%, production inches up 2.7% YOY

Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week that ended Sept. 30 went down 4.1% year over year to 88,150 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads.

Year-to-date coal rail traffic gained 12.3% through the week, while overall rail traffic also inched up 1.9% year over year to 559,555 carloads and intermodal units.

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BNSF Railway Co. reached 40,598 carloads in the week that ended Sept. 30, inching up 2.6% from last week's 39,573 carloads, and showing little change from the year-ago period's 40,974 carloads.

Union Pacific Corp.'s coal shipment volumes stood at 22,378 carloads, climbing 10.6% from the previous week's 20,225 carloads but down 8.4% from the year-ago period's 24,439 carloads.

Eastern railroad CSX Transportation Inc.'s coal shipment volumes clocked in at 15,731 carloads, up 7.5% from the previous week's 14,630 carloads and up 3.8% from 15,154 carloads in the year-ago week.

Norfolk Southern Corp.'s coal shipment volumes totaled 18,031 carloads, down 7.2% from the previous week's 19,435 carloads and sliding 3.9% from the prior year's 18,757 carloads.

Kansas City Southern Railway Co.'s latest weekly coal shipment volume showed 4,069 carloads, up 2.4% from the previous week's 3,974 carloads. The railroad serves 10 U.S. states and Mexico.

Production climbs 2.7% YOY

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total U.S. coal production climbed 2.7% year over year to 15.3 million tons, compared with 14.9 million tons during the same period in 2016.

For the 52 weeks that ended Sept. 30, production stood at 806.9 million tons, up 10.1% year over year, while year-to-date coal output picked up 12.3% year over year to 593.7 million tons.

The Western region's coal production, at 8.7 million tons, remained fairly steady, inching down less than 1% from the previous year's 8.8 million tons. Data for the Western region covers Powder River Basin mines.

Coal production from Appalachian mines totaled 3.7 million tons, climbing 9.2% from the year-ago week's 3.4 million tons.

The Interior region's production posted a growth of 5.3% to 2.9 million tons from the prior year's 2.7 million tons. Interior region data covers mines in the Illinois Basin.

The EIA's production data is derived from rail carload estimates.

Data collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence from railroads indicates both cars originated on their lines during the week and cars received from a connecting railroad during the same week.