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U.S. Coal Supply and Demand: 2010 Year in Review

Release Date: June 1, 2011   |  Next Release Date: Periodically   |   full report 


Coal production in the United States in 2010 increased to a level of 1,085.3 million short tons according to preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an increase of 1.0 percent, or 10.4 million short tons above the 2009 level of 1,074.9 million short tons (Table 1). In 2010 U.S. coal consumption increased in all sectors except commercial and institutional while total coal stocks fell slightly for the year. Coal consumption in the electric power sector in 2010 was higher by 4.5 percent, while coking coal consumption increased by 37.9 percent and the other industrial sector increased by 7.1 percent. The commercial and institutional sector, which prior to 2008 had been called the "residential and commercial" sector and is the smallest of all the coal-consuming sectors, declined by 3.1 percent in 2010. (Note: All percentage change calculations are done at the short-tons level.) U.S. coal exports increased from the 2009 levels due mostly to higher demand for metallurgical coal, while coal imports decreased for a third year in a row.

The increase in coal consumption for electric generation during the year was the consequence of improving domestic economic conditions further bolstered by a cold winter and warm summer in important coal-consuming regions. Preliminary data show that total generation in the electric power sector (electric utilities and independent power producers, including useful thermal output) in the U.S. increased in 2010 by 4.2 percent. Coal-based generation also increased, resulting in a 42.0 million short ton increase in coal consumed in the electric power sector. Coal use in all the sectors other than the electric power sector increased by 13.9 percent to a level of 72.7 million short tons.

The international coal trade markets for most of 2010 were reflective of a worldwide economic rebound. U.S. coal exports rose sharply for the year. U.S. coal exports totaled 81.7 million short tons, an increase of 22.6 million short tons over 2009 levels. Exports of metallurgical coal rose by 18.8 million short tons and accounted for most of the increase in total exports. U.S. imports of coal fell to 19.4 million short tons or 3.3 million short tons below 2009 levels, in part due to recent increases in the price of imported steam coal to almost parity with domestic levels.

In 2010, coal prices (per short ton) for the electric utility sector rose modestly by 1.4 percent and by 3.9 percent for independent power producers. Domestic-origin coking coal prices had the greatest increase, climbing by 7.4 percent, while the price for the other industrial sector fell by 1.0 percent and by 9.1 percent for the commercial and industrial sector. Weather-related production cutbacks by Australia kept upward pressure on international metallurgical coal prices, and average U.S. export prices for metallurgical coal rose by 23.5 percent in 2010, while export prices for U.S. steam coal exports decreased 11 percent. The average price of coal imported into the U.S. rose by 12.3 percent.