U.S. coal production reaches 16-month high


Cold weather and relatively high natural gas prices helped drive U.S. coal production to the highest total in 16 months.

Output rose to an estimated 15.9 million short tons (Mmst) during the week ended Dec. 22, the Energy Information Administration reported last week – the highest production volume since Aug. 25, 2017.

The latest total was 3% higher than the previous week’s estimate, and 1.5% higher than the comparable week in 2017, Kallanish Energy calculates.

U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 740.2 mmst, 2.7% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2017, EIA reported.

Coal’s comeback comes at the expense of natural gas, which has been surging in price. After averaging roughly $3 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in 2017, prices climbed to more than $4.80/Mcf in November, and have mostly remained between $3.50 and $4.50/Mcf this month.

While total electricity generation rose by roughly 8% in November and December, power from natural gas fell by about 7%, Barclays analysts wrote in a report last week. Coal’s largest gains over gas were in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest.

EIA expects the share of power generation from gas to reach 35% in 2018 and 2019, up from 32% in 2017. Coal will provide roughly 28% of U.S. electricity in 2018, and 26% in 2019, down from 30% last year.


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