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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: July 7, 2015  |  Next Release Date: August 11, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures


Coal Supply

Lower coal demand for domestic consumption and exports is projected to contribute to a 75 million short ton (MMst) decline in production for 2015. Coal production is expected to decline in all coal-producing regions, and coal production is projected to remain near 2015 levels in 2016.

Electric power sector stockpiles increased to 168 MMst in April (the most recent month for which data are available), nearly 40 MMst higher than in April 2014.

Coal Consumption

EIA expects a 7% decrease in coal consumption in the electric power sector in 2015. Lower natural gas prices are the primary factor driving the decline. Projected low natural gas prices make it more economical to run natural gas-fired generating units at higher utilization rates even in regions of the country that typically rely more heavily on coal-fired generation (Midwest, South). Retirements of coal power plants in response to the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) have a lesser impact on coal demand in the power sector in 2015.

The full effect of the coal plant retirements on capacity resulting from MATS, which the Supreme Court recently sent back to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for further review, will occur in 2016. However, projected rising electricity demand and higher natural gas prices are expected to contribute to higher utilization rates among the remaining coal-fired fleet. Even with continued MATS implementation, coal consumption in the electric power sector is forecast to increase 1.3% 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, but coal exports are expected to increase slightly 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 $2.36/MMBtu in 2014. EIA expects the delivered coal price to average $2.29/MMBtu in 2015 and $2.30/MMBtu in 2016.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2013 2014 2015 2016
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.34 2.36 2.29 2.30
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 983.9 996.7 921.5 926.5
Imports 8.9 11.3 11.6 10.8
Exports 117.7 97.3 87.4 88.2
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 858.0 851.4 794.8 805.0
Other Sectors 66.5 65.4 61.9 59.7
Total Consumption 924.4 916.9 856.5 864.7
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 147.9 151.4 152.3 148.4
Total Inventories 200.3 203.2 203.8 199.2

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