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Bearish mood for US, Colombian participants at Coaltrans event: sources

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Bearish mood for US, Colombian participants at Coaltrans event: sources

Highlights

Taman Seaport to aid Russian exports

US, Colombian producers at disadvantage

Lisbon — Bearish sentiment marked the mood Monday for Colombian and US thermal coal and petcoke producers and traders at one of Europe's largest trading events.

One thermal coal producer-trader source noted that Russian producers were taking a greater share of European and Mediterranean markets, traditionally controlled by US and Colombian producers.

"Russia is taking a proportion of Colombian coal -- and the EU is in chronic decline," the source said. "Turkey is our most important market at the moment."

Russia's freight advantage is expected to be enhanced by the scaling up of the Taman Seaport on the Black Sea. The port is expected to be able to handle Capesize ships as early as Q1 2020.

Sources attending the Coaltrans World Coal Leaders Network conference in Lisbon were mixed on the impact of increasing ship sizes from the terminal, which recently launched the first batch of Panamax ships before an audience that included the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The scaled-up ship size capacity would give Russian producers a $10-$12/mt cost advantage over their Colombian counterparts into Turkey, and would be "tragic" for many Colombian producers, a European coal and petcoke trader said.

A Colombian producer expected that the impact would not be felt until 2021 as long-term contracts were already in place with Turkish utilities.

The petcoke and coal trader noted many Turkish utilities, including its largest Eren Energy, had not fully contracted for 2020 and were contracting in quarterly rather than annual contracts.

"Eren has not locked in anything," the trader said. "Last year, they were at about 80%-85% at this point with a small portion of spot. This year, they have 20% locked in with the rest done on a quarterly basis."

The same source added that he did not envision loading a Capesize ship for a two-day voyage as "that realistic." He also did not expect Turkish utilities would put all of their seaborne imported coal demand in Russia's hands, despite recent warming relations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Putin.

US MINERS, PETCOKE UNDER DURESS

US miners were equally under duress by a combination of low seaborne prices, global oversupply, and better logistics from Russian producers.

The petcoke and coal trader said Mediterranean markets, including Egypt and Greece, would become "100% Russian." India also was expected to become a better destination for Russian coal from Taman, he said.

Overleveraged US miners were facing a double whammy of declining domestic demand coupled with a likely contraction in 2020 export volumes.

Petcoke traders also were feeling the pain of a global marketplace beset by low prices and oversupply.

A high sulfur petcoke deal was heard fixed at $26/mt FOB US Gulf Coast for November delivery into India.

S&P Global Platts last assessed the FOB USGC high sulfur petcoke price at $31/mt last week, and the deal would mark the lowest price point since April 13, 2016, when Platts assessed the marker at $25/mt.

-- Jeffrey McDonald, jeffrey.mcdonald@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Manish Parashar, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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