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Houston — Weekly US coal production totaled an estimated 14.68 million st in the week that ended Saturday, down 5.3% from the prior week and 4.8% below the same week a year ago, according to US Energy Information Administration data released Thursday.

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It marked the second time this year coal production has dipped below the year-ago total, the first time being during the week of Independence Day.

Coal production has steadily declined in the past five weeks since peaking at a year-to-date high of 17 million st for the week that ended August 19.

While stockpiles have drawn down, days of burn remain relatively elevated and natural gas prices have weakened, likely curtailing deliveries and stalling production.

Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy estimates utility coal stockpiles as of last week stood at 128 million st, while the NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures contract has averaged $2.95/MMBtu since August 1.

For the recently concluded week, coal production in Wyoming and Montana, which primarily comprises coal from the Powder River Basin, totaled an estimated 6.98 million st, down 6.2% compared with last week and 8.7% below the year-ago week.

On an annualized basis, coal production in Wyoming and Montana would total 357 million st, up 8.2% from last year.

In Central Appalachia, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 1.45 million st, down 3.7% from last week but up 0.4% from last year. Annualized 2017 production would total 83.1 million st, up 8.8% from last year.

In Northern Appalachia, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 2.1 million st, down 3.9% from last week and 2.6% below the year-ago week. Annualized production would total 114.6 million st, up 12.4% from last year.

In the Illinois Basin, weekly coal production totaled an estimated 1.84 million st, down 3.9% from last week and 2.6% below a year ago. Annualized production would total 106.5 million st, up 8.2% from 2016.

Based on the most recent EIA estimates and first-quarter revisions, US coal production in 2017 on an annualized basis would total 791.5 million st, up 8.7% from last year.

--Andrew Moore,

--Edited by Valarie Jackson,