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Houston — Prominent coal trader Xcoal plans to develop an LNG export business that would complement its existing coal marketing business, CEO Ernie Thrasher said Wednesday.

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Speaking at a IHS CERAWeek briefing in Houston, Thrasher said the new venture -- XLNG Energy & Resources -- would take advantage of Xcoal's existing global coal business, considering that many of its coal customers are also consumers of LNG.

Much of Xcoal's export coal is produced in the Marcellus and Utica areas of the US, and "we believe the same thing can be true for unconventional gas produced in that area and exported as LNG," he said.

"We see the gas and LNG market strikingly parallel with what we've seen in the coal market," Thrasher said.

Thrasher said he hopes the venture would be up and running by 2016 or 2017.

He said he expects the development of LNG export infrastructure in the US will be a challenge, especially considering the coal industry has been growing its infrastructure since the mid-1800s.

"You're just at the front of that in the gas business," Thrasher said.

Despite the announcement, Thrasher urged people "not to start writing the eulogy of US coal."

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