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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: May 12, 2015  |  Next Release Date: June 9, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Coal

Coal Consumption

EIA expects a 6% decrease in coal consumption in the electric power sector in 2015, despite a 1% increase in total electric power generation. Lower natural gas prices are the main driver of the decline. Projected low natural gas prices will make it more economical to run natural gas-fired generating units at higher utilization rates even in regions of the country (Midwest, South) that typically rely more heavily on coal-fired generation. The retirements of coal power plants in response to the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards also reduces coal demand in the power sector in 2015. The full effect of the coal plant retirements on capacity will be felt in 2016, but projected rising electricity demand and higher natural gas prices increase the use of the remaining coal-fired fleet, mitigating the effects of the retirements as projected coal consumption in the electric power sector increases by 1% next year.

Coal Supply

EIA estimates that U.S. coal production for 2014 totaled 997 million short tons (MMst), 13 MMst (1.3%) higher than in 2013. Lower demand for coal (domestic consumption and exports) contributes to a projected 7% (66 MMst) decline in 2015 production. EIA projects a decline in all coal-producing regions with the largest decline occurring in Appalachia (34 MMst, or 13%). Declines in the Interior and Western regions are projected to be 2% and 5%, respectively. Coal production growth is projected to be flat in 2016.

Coal Trade

Slower growth in world coal demand, lower international coal prices, and higher coal output in other coal-exporting countries have led to a two-year decline in U.S. coal exports. EIA projects coal exports will fall by 10 MMst, to 87 MMst, in 2015, and then increase by 2 MMst in 2016. U.S. coal imports, which increased by more than 2 MMst in 2014 to 11 MMst, are expected to remain near that level over the next two years.

Coal Prices

The annual average coal price to the electric power sector fell from $2.39/MMBtu in 2011 to an estimated $2.36/MMBtu in 2014. EIA expects the delivered coal price to average $2.31/MMBtu in 2015 and $2.32/MMBtu in 2016.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2013 2014 2015 2016
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.34 2.36 2.31 2.32
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 983.9 996.7 930.9 930.6
Imports 8.9 11.3 12.1 10.8
Exports 117.7 97.3 87.1 89.4
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 858.0 851.4 798.8 804.8
Other Sectors 66.5 65.4 62.3 61.3
Total Consumption 924.4 916.9 861.2 866.1
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 147.9 151.4 146.5 144.0
Total Inventories 200.3 203.2 198.0 195.0

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