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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: March 10, 2015  |  Next Release Date: April 7, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures


Coal exports totaled 97.3 million short tons (MMst) in 2014, which was the first time since 2010 exports were below 100 MMst. Coal exports fall into two categories: metallurgical (met) coal, which is used in the production of steel, and steam coal, which is commonly used to fuel boilers that generate steam used to produce electricity, heat, or both. Steam coal exports fell by 34% in 2014 to slightly more than 34 MMst. In contrast, steam coal exports to Europe alone were nearly 31 MMst in 2013. Met coal exports declined by 4% in 2014, but met coal exports to Europe increased by nearly 20%.

Coal Trade

The 2014 decline in coal exports was primarily a result of slower growth in world coal demand, lower international coal prices, and higher coal output in other coal-exporting countries compared with 2013. EIA projects coal exports will fall from 97 MMst in 2014 to an annual average of 81 MMst in 2015 and 2016. Global market conditions for coal are not expected to change significantly through 2016.

Coal Supply

EIA estimates that U.S. coal production for 2014 totaled 997 MMst, 13 MMst (1.3%) higher than in 2013. EIA expects annual production to decline in 2015 to 943 MMst, before growing slightly to 951 MMst in 2016.

Coal Consumption

Electric power sector coal consumption decreased by 7 MMst (0.8%) in 2014. EIA projects power sector coal will decrease by 2.2% in 2015, despite an increase in electricity generation, because of lower natural gas prices and retirements of coal power plants in response to the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The full effect of the coal plant retirements will be felt in 2016, as projected coal consumption in the electric power sector declines by an additional 0.5%.

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 $2.34/MMBtu in 2016.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2013 2014 2015 2016
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.35 2.36 2.31 2.34
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 983.9 996.7 942.9 951.5
Imports 8.9 11.9 11.0 10.8
Exports 117.7 97.3 80.4 80.9
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 858.0 851.4 833.0 828.9
Other Sectors 66.5 66.3 64.1 64.8
Total Consumption 924.4 916.9 897.1 893.7
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 148.0 151.5 136.0 135.2
Total Inventories 200.4 190.8 187.5 186.2

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