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Feature: US Gulf of Mexico thermal coal exports set to double on year

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Feature: US Gulf of Mexico thermal coal exports set to double on year

Highlights

Up 94.2% in 2018, up 93% in 2017

10 vessels leave US Gulf since Sunday

Houston — Thermal coal exports through the US Gulf of Mexico are set to double two years in a row, producing the largest jumps in exports from any US region in the same period.

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Coal through the Gulf in the first eight months of the year came to over 12.1 million mt, up 94.2% compared with over 6.2 million mt in the same time span last year.

Exports throughout 2017 totaled over 10.6 million mt, up 93% from 2016 when more than 5.5 million mt was exported through the Gulf.

Exports through the US Western states for the first eight months totaled less than 7.9 million mt, up 34.5% from 2017 with less than 5.9 million mt in the same period.

Northern exports totaled more than 349,000 mt, down 9.2% from the prior year with less than 385,000 mt during the first eight months.

From the East Coast, thermal coal exports in the first eight months of 2018 totaled over 10.3 million mt, up 22% from 2017 with less than 8.5 million mt.

In 2017 exports from the Eastern states were over 4 million mt more than exports from the Gulf; however, shipments through the Gulf this year have jumped ahead. Through August, thermal coal exports from the Gulf are over 2 million mt more than exports shipped through the East Coast.

CENSUS DISTRICTS

Most of the coal exports, approximately 11 million mt, were shipped from the New Orleans census district, while the Houston district came in distant second with less than 768 thousand mt shipped.

The weekly assessed FOB New Orleans 6,000 kcal/kg NAR price for thermal coal, which S&P Global Platts began tracking in April, peaked at $70.50/st on October 5 and July 20.

Exports from the New Orleans census district had a year high of less than 1.7 million mt of coal in July, as well, and a low of $58.42/st from April to May alongside 1 million mt in exports, the eight month low for New Orleans district exports.

LEAD DESTINATIONS

India beat out the Netherlands as the main destination for thermal coal through the Gulf, receiving over 2 million mt of US exports compared to the Netherlands 1.7 million mt in the first eight months of 2018.

Since 2014, the Netherlands had been the main destination of coal shipped from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Platts FOB US Gulf Coast thermal marker for 11,500 Btu/lb GAR coal $65.55/st on Tuesday.

The price reached a high point of $68.63/st on July 11, the month with the largest number exports, 1.8 million mt, from the Gulf in the first eight months of the year.

Since Sunday 10 vessels carrying coal have left ports in the Gulf, according to Platts Analytics Tuesday.

Three of the vessels left from the Port of South Louisiana, two each from Port Arthur and Davant, and one each from Houston, Corpus Christi and Lake Charles.

The five census districts for exports from the Gulf of Mexico are New Orleans, Houston and Galveston, Mobile, Port Arthur and Tampa, according to the US Census Bureau.

-- Olivia Kalb, olivia.kalb@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com