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Weekly US coal production rises despite low natural gas prices

Weekly US coal production totaled an estimated 15.57 million st in theweek that ended February 17, up 2.8% from the prior week, but down 4% from theyear-ago week, US Energy Information Administration data showed Thursday.

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This was the second strongest year-to-date estimate behind the estimatefor the week that ended February 3 at 15.87 million st.

EIA expects natural gas prices to moderate in the coming months,based on a forecast that production will reach a record 80.3 Bcf/d in 2018. With less-expensive gas, utility buyers are not moving aggressively to rebuildstockpiles.

S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates stockpiles stood at 107.43 millionst for the week that ended Thursday, down roughly 1.5% from the year-ago week.

One reason for this downward trend is ongoing retirements, but with gas futures prices below $3 for 2018, buyers have been hesitant to makeprocurement decisions.

The front-month NYMEX Henry Hub gas contract settled Thursday at$2.659/MMBtu, up 2.6% from the year-ago price.

Based on EIA estimates through the first seven weeks of the year,annualized US coal production in 2017 would total 759 million st, down 1.6%from last year.

For the recently concluded week, coal production in Wyoming and Montana,which primarily comprises coal from the Powder River Basin, totaled anestimated 7.02 million st, up 2.6% compared with last week, but down 4.4% fromthe year-ago week.

On an annualized basis, coal production in Wyoming and Montana wouldtotal 341 million st, down 3.5% from last year.

In Central Appalachia, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 1.95million st, up 3.7% from last week and 1.9% from last year. Annualized 2017production would total 95.2 million st, up 6.3% from last year.

In Northern Appalachia, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 2.12million st, up 3% from last week, but down 7.9% from the year-ago week.Annualized production would total 103 million st, down 1.2% from last year.

In the Illinois Basin, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 2.1million st, up 2.3% from last week, but down 9.9% from last year. Annualizedproduction would total 103.3 million st, down 0.1% from 2017.

--Veda Chowdhury, veda.chowdhury@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com