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Coal deliveries to US power plants fall 9.8% YOY in H1

Coal deliveries to U.S. power plants decreased nearly 10% in the first six months of 2018 compared to the year-ago period, reversing the year-over-year growth in the first six months of 2017.

According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration data, U.S. coal producers delivered 271 million tons of coal to domestic utilities in the first half, down from 301 million tons during the same period in 2017.

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While the majority of coal-producing regions saw a decline in deliveries, four saw slight upticks from the first half of 2017. Most notably, Northern Lignite coal deliveries rose 6.6% from 11.1 million tons to 11.9 million tons, and deliveries from the Northern Powder River Basin increased 6% from 6.8 million tons to 7.2 million tons.

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The Central and Northern Appalachian basins took the largest hits among the main coal-producing regions, seeing year-over-year delivery decreases of 24.1% and 15.2%, respectively, over the first two quarters. Powder River Basin deliveries saw the smallest year-over-year percentage decrease at 6% but the largest tonnage decrease of 9 million tons.

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Two of Alpha Natural Resources Inc.'s Central Appalachian mines had some of the basin's largest year-over-year delivery drops on a percentage basis. The Ruby Energy mine and Delbarton Preparation Plant in Mingo County, W.Va., had substantial decreases in their deliveries from the year-ago period, down 93.5% to 12,000 tons and 83.9% to 26,000 tons, respectively.

Deliveries from Revelation Energy Holdings' Pontiki Plant and Blackjewel LLC's P-8 Cave Branch operations plummeted to 25,000 and 20,000 tons in the six-month period, respectively, down 91.7% and 87.4% from the year-ago period.

JMP Holdings LLC's Kentucky River Loading facility in Central Appalachia saw the largest percentage growth in coal deliveries in the basin during the first half at 26.7%. Royal Energy Resources Inc.'s Jamboree Loadout operation saw a 17.4% uptick in deliveries.

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Northern Appalachian mines saw even larger delivery increases and decreases.

While Murray Energy Corp.'s Marion County mine in West Virginia boasted a 238.9% increase to 2.1 million tons, the company's Powhatan No. 6 and Monongalia County mines' deliveries dropped at least 60% from the year-ago period. The Powhatan No. 6 mine's deliveries dropped from 4.9 million tons in the first half of 2017 to 1.8 million tons in the first two quarters of 2018, while Monongalia County deliveries fell from 2.8 million to 1.1 million during the same time frame.

Westmoreland Coal Co.'s Buckingham Mine No. 6 in Perry County, Ohio, saw a delivery uptick of 89.3% from 243,000 tons to 459,000 tons.

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Two of Westmoreland's Montana mines delivered more coal in the first half compared to the same period of 2017. The Absaloka mine delivered 1.5 million tons, up 24.7% from 1.2 million tons in the first half of 2017, and the Rosebud Mine & Crusher/Conveyor operations saw an 8.7% increase from 3.5 million tons to 3.8 million tons.

Westmoreland is considering selling all three mines, along with other assets, as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring process.

The Powder River basin saw large year-over-year declines in its deliveries from mines in Campbell County, Wyo., during the first two quarters. Cloud Peak Energy Inc.'s Cordero Rojo mine had a 32.7% drop in deliveries, decreasing from 8.5 million tons to 5.7 million tons. Arch Coal Inc.'s Coal Creek mine delivered 17% less coal, down to 4 million tons, from 4.8 million tons during the year-ago period.

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East Kentucky Power Cooperative Inc.'s H.L. Spurlock plant had one of the largest percentage increases in its coal deliveries from the first six months of 2017 to 2018 in the Central Appalachian basin, while Duke Energy Corp.'s Mayo plant had the largest percentage decrease in the basin, down 84%, among the larger coal plants.

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In Northern Appalachia, Talen Energy Corp.'s Montour plant saw a more than threefold increase in coal deliveries, while FirstEnergy Corp.'s Bruce Mansfield plant received 92.4% fewer tons, down from 1.7 million tons to 131,600 tons. The FirstEnergy subsidiary that operates the Mansfield plant intends to close Units 1-3 in 2021.

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The Plum Point Energy plant had one of the most significant percentage upticks in coal deliveries in the Powder River Basin, with a 300.9% increase from 345,000 in the first two quarters of 2017 to 1.4 million in the first half of 2018. The Big Brown plant's deliveries dropped 96.3% from 2.6 million tons to 95,000 tons.

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