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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: December 9, 2014  |  Next Release Date: January 13, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures


Total electric power sector coal stocks increased by 3.1 million short tons (MMst) in September compared with the previous month. This increase in stocks follows the typical seasonal pattern where coal plants build stocks during the autumn months in preparation for increased coal consumption in the winter. Despite the increase, end-of-September stocks are 28 MMst (18%) lower than last year and 23% lower than the previous four-year average for the month. The large year-over-year decrease in stocks reflects increased coal-fired electricity generation during the winter of 2013-14 across a large portion of the country and subsequent decreased coal deliveries because of lingering rail transportation issues.

Coal Supply

EIA estimates that coal production for the first 11 months of this year was 909 MMst, almost unchanged from the same period last year. EIA expects that annual production will grow by 1.2% in 2014 and remain flat in 2015.

Coal Consumption

Higher electricity demand and higher power sector natural gas prices are contributing to an increase in electric power sector coal consumption this year. EIA projects electric power coal consumption of 868 MMst in 2014, an increase of 1.2% from last year. Power sector coal consumption is projected to fall by 0.4% in 2015, as retirements of coal power plants rise in response to the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and electricity and natural gas prices fall relative to coal prices.

Coal Trade

Exports of coal are projected to decline to 96 MMst in 2014 from 118 MMst in 2013, primarily because of slowing world coal demand growth, lower international coal prices, and increasing coal output in other coal-exporting countries. With no improvement in global market conditions, EIA projects coal exports to fall to 83 MMst in 2015, which would be the lowest since 2010.

EIA expects coal imports, which account for about 1% of U.S. coal consumption, to total 12.2 MMst in 2014 and fall to 10.8 MMst in 2015.

Coal Prices

The annual average coal price to the electric power industry fell from a historically high $2.39/MMBtu in 2011 to $2.35/MMBtu in 2013. EIA expects the average delivered coal price to be $2.36/MMBtu in 2014 and remain at that level in 2015.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2012 2013 2014 2015
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.38 2.35 2.36 2.36
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 1016.4 984.0 996.0 995.3
Imports 9.2 8.9 12.2 10.8
Exports 125.7 117.7 96.2 82.7
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 823.6 858.4 868.5 864.7
Other Sectors 65.6 66.8 65.9 66.0
Total Consumption 889.2 925.1 934.3 930.6
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 185.1 148.0 129.2 131.3
Total Inventories 238.9 197.5 179.8 183.8

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